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My 86 year old father has developed alcohol problems - Carers UK Forum

My 86 year old father has developed alcohol problems

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My 86 year old father, widowed two years ago, has developed alcohol problems and spends money on all kinds of crazy things even when sober. He lives on his own in his own bungalow and is fiercely independant. Both he and I really want him to be able to stay at home.

I think he has always had a tendency to enjoy a drink, but never to excess and similarly enjoyed buying gadgets. Its clear that when Mum was alive she kept control of all of this. When she died he spent money like crazy on all kinds of useless stuff and continues to do so. Its not that it is causing financial problems - it isn't - it is just such a stupid waste of money and the house is just crammed with 'stuff' which he doesn't need or use.

Over the last 12 months or so his memory has really started to deteriorate and he has become increasingly frail. He has stopped taking care of himself. If I call in unexpectedly I find he hasn't shaved for a number of days, is wearing unwashed clothes etc. He has told my sister who lives abroad that he eats cold baked beans out of a can because he can't be bothered to heat up one of the meals in the freezer that I've prepared for him.We have had several discussions about him giving up driving and he has agreed on numerous occasions - only to change his mind again. I worry he will have an accident and seriously injure himself or someone else.

I realise that all of this is to do with him trying to cope with losing Mum but I am struggling to cope and am desperate to take good care of him and keep him safe. Alcohol has become an increasing problem over the last 6 - 9 months. He says he drinks because he is lonely and that may be how it started - but now he just drinks himself into a stupor. On two occasions just recently I went to collect him to go out with family for a meal and he was completely drunk. I telephone him every evening when I get home from work and he is drunk. He has had a lot of falls - one particularly bad one outside at the back of the house a few weeks ago when he ended up with a black eye and horrendous bruising. He was knocked unconscious and was amazingly lucky not to have fractured his skull or broken his hip.

I am at a complete loss. If he's sober I can talk to him and he will promise not to drink - but later that day he will get drunk again. HELP! - please. How can I keep him safe?
What does your father do when he is not drinking and where does he drink, at home or in a pub? He will be very lonely having lost your mother so perhaps if he drinks in the pub it is as much for company as for the anaesthetic effect of the drink. Does your father have non-drinking friends or friends who are only social drinkers who he could be persuaded to spend more time with? I wonder whether if you could find him a place in club for older people where he could make friends whether he would find that he did not need to drink so much, it would give him friendships, activities and keep him away from the alcohol for at least part of the day. Otherwise, if he objects to the idea of a club for older people, perhaps you could get him to join in classes for over 50s, these are held all over the place and you are never too old to learn.

It does sound as though your father's days are filled with grief, loneliness and inactivity and this is really bad not only emotionally but intellectually, we all need to keep our minds active to try and retain our ability to remember things. If your father refuses to join a club you could try telling him that he only has to try it and he does not have to go again if he hates it, he may find that he does like it despite any misgivings, my husband refused to go to his club for a year but once persuaded to try it loved it, he has recently started going again with his PA after suffering a stroke at the end of October and although he was worried about returning he still loves it.

You might also want to consider discussing the problem with your father's GP, your father may be depressed and the alcohol could be his way of dealing with it, depression is common and under-diagnosed in older people, but I think that it is important to respect his right for you not to if he does not want you to, perhaps if he has another fall would be the best time.

Good luck, these older men can be very stubborn but not entirely immovable if you can find the right angle Image .
Hi, and welcome to the forum.

You could be describing my father, 10 years ago, (although he was 71 then). Buying things he didn't need, drinking to blot out his memories,the same person he always was, when sober. It ended up with my Dad having so many falls, and ending up in hospital for several months at a time to recover,because hadn't been eating, and his body needed to be built up again,and in the end, he had to give up his home and go into a retirement home.(I am already a Carer for my husband and two sons, so moving in with us was not an option).

My Dad just refused anyone who was not family to go in and see him. He would not go out to clubs; occasionally my two aunts,(my late mother's sisters), would persuade him to go on a coach trip with their church.

With hindsight, I would have sat down with him, asked one of my aunts to support me, and talk to him seriously about the problems he was causing himself. I would certainly have got him to look at the idea of buying a computer, as I think his life could have been changed with learning to understand a computer. His brain is still as active as it ever was, but he refuses to look at computers now, although he will ask either me or the staff at the Home to go on the net for him to get information.

Good luck.
Hi Lizzyp, just saying welcome to the forum.

Hi Lizzyp, just saying welcome to the forum.

Hi Lizzyp - welcome to the forum.

Reading between the lines I think you fear is that your Father is becoming an alcoholic. Have you thought of contacting Al-Anon ? they are an organisation set up to support families and friends of alcoholics - it's quite likely that they could give you advice on how to handle this problem.

I agree with Parsifal that you need to talk to your father's GP and voice your concerns. Your Father's behaviour could all be put down to drink; but there maybe other, underlying health related issues which are affecting him as well. It maybe that you need to get Social Services involved, maybe arrange for some sort of care package whereby Carers can come in at set times to check on him etc. Or how about Meals On Wheels to ensure that he is eating ?

It does sound as though he is lonely and his behaviour is his way of coping with the emptiness of his days; so if you can arrange something that involves people calling in on him from time to time it might help to alleviate the loneliness.

I know it is no consolation, but the same thing happened to my father, at about the same age. He didn't waste money, except at the liquor store. He too started to have very noticeable memory problems and he would forget to eat, forget how many gin & tonics he drank .. eventually he had a fall and it was only lucky my sis popped in for a visit, otherwise he would have been left there for days and might not have survived.

I agree with everyone - get as much help as needed from your GP and also Social Services. He is likely to cause harm to himself and if he drinks and drives to others as well.

With my father, my sis eventually had to steal the car keys so he could not drive. This was after he repeatedly drove and got lost. Once he had to have the police take him home he was so confused.
Your Dad will need to agree to the help though. My Dad was meant to have Meals on wheels, but after two dinners, decided that he wasn't going to pay for something he didn't like, and stopped them calling,and Age Concern said it was up to him, as he was an adult with all his faculties.
Hello lizzyp, sorry to hear of your problems with your father! I hope that you can get some support on the forum to help you with it Image
...thank you all for your replies and support. Whilst common sense tells you that others will have gone through this it is reassuring to have that confirmed.

Dad drinks at home on his own. He used to be a very gregarious person but has completely withdrawn from all social contact other than me and his dog and the man at the post office he gets his daily paper from as he walks the dog - his one 10 minute outing of the day. We went to see his GP in mid April but I am going to go again on my own and talk about the drinking and how much worse it is getting and then take Dad to see him and see where we go from there. Problem is he puts on a great front. He convinced a counsellor that he was absolutely fine and the GP that his falls were down to dizziness. He himself believes he is having mini strokes which cause him to fall. He is already on meds for depression but the alcohol will be negating any benefit.

I do think he eats - the baked beans out of a can thing is just indicative that he simply can't be bothered. But his appetite is good and I have started checking the fridge/freezer to see if supplies are being used and I think they are. I think he is very likely to refuse to have carers come into his home. He feels aggrieved about the cleaning lady who come for 2 hour once a fortnight!! He also only wants his family - which is me!! And I can't do it all!!

For years he has been very into computers - but now he has lost interest. I have bought him DVD's of academic lectures which are in a very palatable format (he is a former academic) but he has never watched them. His concentration is poor. He has tried learning musical instruments - no joy. His mind no longer seems able to focus other than on the television. I try to talk to him when he is sober and he agrees etc etc - but when I call him later in the day he is drunk again.

Today I have been to a Carers Association and it was good - as is this - to be able to offload and get an objective response. I have also had a long conversation on the phone with an alcohol abuse advisory service which again has been helpful. But to be honest I do think he is dependant on the alcohol and he is going to need professional help - which I am pretty sure he will refuse. I will go and see his GP and organise a visit for him too. At least I feel as if I am doing something constructive to help him..... and me! Thank you all once again.