Switzerland, 08.04.2019

Excessive alcohol consumption in old people's homes

The national Tages-Anzeiger newspaper recently reported that a previously unpublished report commissioned by the State had concluded that alcoholics were becoming an increasing problem in old people’s homes, though it seems this problem is less acute here in the canton of Zug.

As Peter Arnold, the head of the Alterzentren Zug old people’s homes, confirmed, there were few instances of residents here becoming over-cantankerous and complaining about staff. And as Carina Brüngger of the Spitex home-care organisation said, this was very much the situation with them, too. “As far as I know, we have never had any clients who have been excessively recalcitrant after drinking too much,” she said.

However, Arnold did confirm he knew of cases where sometimes a glass too much was drunk. “In most cases we know even before the pensioners take up residence whether they have a dependency on alcohol, and look at each case individually separately,” he said. “We would never go as far as preventing someone from drinking alcohol,” he said. “After all, this is not a prison,” adding that many of the residents were not that mobile any more. Since his appointment he had not noticed an increase in alcohol consumption at the homes. “Had we noticed such, our staff would have been trained in how to react accordingly,” he said.

Of course, the situation with Spitex clients is not quite the same, as staff are with them for a shorter period of time. Like Arnold, Brüngger said she would not prevent any of her clients from drinking alcohol, either.

There are actually at least 250,000 alcoholics in Switzerland, possibly more, with people over the age or 65 making up most of these. As to why older people tend to drink more, Stephanie Knocks, the general secretary of the Addiction Association, said it was just the same as with younger people, their enjoying company with family and friends, in situations where drinking alcohol is the norm. “And older people have more time for such gatherings,” she said, adding how it was quite usual for older people to drown pain and mourning in drink, too. “What also should not be forgotten is that older people cannot break down alcohol as well as younger people,” she said, “and they are more likely to fall and injure themselves, not to mention problems of alcoholism actually being put down to normal symptoms of old age, such as diminishing physical and mental capacity, and lack of concentration.”


This is based on an original article by Vanessa Varisco.