Introduction

For many older people, drinking alcohol brings pleasure and relaxation. For some, it brings substantial risks owing to the way that alcohol affects their bodies as they age and the medications they take. For a minority, alcohol misuse in later life continues a long-term pattern of ill-health.

People living in care homes belong to all these groups, and yet care homes seem to have little in the way of policies or practices to guide them. Just as it would be wrong to ignore the real harm alcohol can do, it would be equally wrong to impose blanket rules that would prevent normal social drinking. Care home staff are often unprepared to assess alcohol use or to judge whether a wish to continue drinking alcohol could be harmful.

Objectives

This study aims to gather the evidence to chart a course through these difficult issues, with the aim of producing guidance for care homes that both respect the rights of older people to consume alcohol but also reduce the risk of harm to their health and wellbeing.

Methods

This study involves an intensive study of 12 care homes, gathering the views of residents and staff and observing key events where alcohol plays a part (for example, wine at mealtimes).

A telephone survey of 150 care homes will also be undertaken to set findings from the intensive study into a wider context.