Alcohol and dementia

dementia and alcoholMany elderly appreciate having an alcoholic drink every now and then, and alcohol can be a part of celebrating and socializing. We are also well aware that drinking too frequently in large quantities can put anyone in danger of developing serious physical and mental health problems.

When trying to understand the relationship between alcohol and dementia, three major questions come to mind:

  • Does consumption of alcohol lead to dementia, or increase the chances of getting dementia?
  • Is it safe for people with dementia to consume alcohol?
  • What types of dementia are directly linked to alcohol abuse?

The answers to all these questions are not straightforward. The first question is complicated because alcohol is known to be a protective factor in some dementias whereas it is a causal factor in other dementias. The second question is also not easy to answer directly because it will depend on the person’s stage of dementia, medicine interactions and the type of dementia they have. The answer to the third question will throw light on some dementias that are directly linked to alcohol abuse.

Let us look all these questions in greater detail.

Is alcohol a risk factor for dementia?

According to a research alcohol consumption in moderation may be a preventive factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia. However, some studies have shown that drinking more than approved quantities increases a person’s risk of developing vascular dementia. Studies have not shown any conclusive connection between heavy drinking and Alzheimer’s.

Several studies have also shown that alcohol can have a direct negative effect on cognitive functioning. One study found that individuals who drank at least five bottles of beer in one sitting or one bottle of wine, in midlife were three times more probable than individuals who did not binge drink to have dementia when they turned 65. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause a different type of dementia that is known as Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD).

To conclude, whether alcohol is beneficial or harmful depends upon the amount consumed.

Is it safe for people with dementia to consume alcohol?

In the beginning phases of dementia, a glass of wine a day with food may not cause much damage, but only if the physician has agreed to it and your loved one is not taking any medication which would interfere with alcohol. It is very important for the caregivers of someone who is suffering from dementia to monitor the intake of alcohol. Dementia patients may experience difficulties remembering the amount of alcohol they have had and what amount is in a standard drink.

Allowing somebody with dementia to drink more than recommended can bring on additional cognitive impairment and accelerate the progression of their disease. It may not be safe for people whose dementia was caused by alcohol related brain damage to have even a small quantity of alcohol.

Alcohol related dementia

Dementia attached to alcohol use is grouped as alcohol-related brain damage or ARBD. It is a brain disorder caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol over several years. Frequent alcohol consumption in large quantities can causes deficiencies that can lead to brain damage or dementia. Consuming a lot of alcohol also keeps neurons from recovering, which leads to the death of the neurons.

ARBD increases the risk of developing the following types of dementia:

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome: A type of brain disorder caused by a lack of vitamin B-1 deficiency.
  • Pellagra: Pellagra is caused due to deficiency of niacin (vitamin B-3). Alcohol dependence can give rise to or increase pellagra as it leads to lack of healthy sustenance, gastrointestinal problems and Vitamin B deficiencies.
  • Marchiafava–Bignami disease: It is a progressive neurological disease of alcoholism; it is associated with the deterioration of Corpus Callosum.
  • Alcohol induced dementia: It is a type of dementia which is caused due to excessive consumption, which leads to impaired cognitive functioning and neurological deficits.

The most prevalent form of ARBD is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Generally, drinking every day isn’t suggested for an older adult, especially someone who has never been a regular drinker. This is because alcohol may have more adverse effect on seniors who have just started drinking in the later years than those who have always been moderate drinkers. Even for regular drinkers lower limits have been approved for older adults because their bodies have a lower tolerance and their body handles alcohol differently.

Alcohol negatively affects cognition and memory. It has been stated that the more often seniors consumes alcohol, the more likely they will experience memory problems and impairment in cognitive functioning. Heavy drinking has both quick and long term negative consequences for the brain and neuro-psychological functioning. The impact of alcohol on wellbeing shifts depending upon the amount of alcohol consumed, drinking span, kind of alcohol, and frequency of consumption.

We at Samvedna Senior Care aim to help seniors live happy, active and independent lives, in the comfort of their home and community through interactive caregiving.

Samvedna Senior Care was established in October 2013 with two complementary goals – firstly to provide quality home care services to seniors with limited mobility or dementia and hence social interaction, and secondly to facilitate stimulating community interaction and participation.

Our Dementia Care services are

At-home services –
Dementia intervention activities by trained Care Specialists (already mentioned above). These services are available in Delhi NCR
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Please call us for more info – Delhi NCR – 98184 21446, 124 4229659

Dementia Support Group –
Our Dementia Support group in Delhi NCR is a platform for caregivers to share feelings and support each other.
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Please call us for more info – Delhi NCR – 98184 21446, 124 4229659

Cognitive Wellness Programme, Sector 57  Gurgaon  –
Samvedna’s Cognitive Wellness Programme is designed for seniors with mild cognitive impairment, early dementia or Parkinson’s, and elderly lacking in enthusiasm and motivation. The aim is to stimulate the mind of the elderly to slow the progression of the disease or impairment. The sessions are 3 days a week, 11AM-1PM.
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General Wellbeing:

With our General Well Being Services we aim to raise the quality of life of seniors, specially those who may have limited mobility and social interaction due to various constraints. Our interactive programme keeps them active and engaged through physical, mental and social activities, all in the comfort of their home.

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