Adults with alcohol-related brain damage ‘inappropriately’ placed in care homes, medics warn

A report by medical organisations calls for the development of care pathways and improved diagnosis

Adults with alcohol-related brain damage are being placed inappropriately in nursing homes due to a lack of understanding about the condition within health and social care, says a report by a group of leading medical organisations.

The Alcohol and Brain Damage in Adults report says that post-mortem examinations suggest that 0.5% of UK adults have had changes to their brains due to alcohol consumption that have gone unrecognised during their lifetime.

In the most severe cases alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD), a catch-all term for a range of conditions caused by excessive drinking, can cause memory loss, confusion, minor strokes and behavioural changes among other symptoms.

The report says 80-90% of cases go unidentified and that the lack of national guidance, care standards and established care pathways mean that many people with severe ARBD are being inappropriately placed in nursing homes or not receiving any service.

“In these circumstances, the individual is likely to relapse into alcohol misuse, be readmitted into acute care for withdrawal and stabilisation of their physical condition and is subsequently discharged; and the cycle is repeated,” says the report.

It calls on clinical commissioning groups to support services that provide specialist care and staff in alcohol treatment services and A&E screen for the condition.

It also suggests developing care pathways so that those diagnosed with ARBD receive appropriate services, including non-institutional care and rehabilitation.

“ARBD is a costly problem, both for individuals and their families, and for health and social services,” said report editor Kenneth Wilson, the professor of old-age psychiatry at the University of Liverpool.

“But specialist services for these patients can make a dramatic improvement to their quality of life.

“We also know from work we have done in this area that it can also dramatically reduce hospital admissions by some 85 per cent.”

The report also makes several recommendations on fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, including more effort to be put into warning expectant and would-be parents of the dangers drinking can pose to unborn children.

The report was created by the Royal College of Psychiatrists London, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Association of British Neurologists.

By Tristan Donovan in Adults, Mental Health

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