Soho's older drinkers get dedicated service to help them

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By poppy_smith | Sunday, October 21, 2012, 09:47

Drinkers over 55 in Westminster who may be at risk of developing problems with alcohol are to get their own dedicated help service.

Westminster City Council has asked Foundation66, a London-based charity, to work with older residents who may be drinking too much. The move recognises that while there are established programmes aimed at younger problem drinkers, alcohol abuse is a growing problem among older people - with habit, loneliness and coping with old age key triggers to abuse.

The Foundation66 programme, already under way in Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham councils, is being rolled out as part of a tri-borough scheme to tackle ill health.

In some cases the service will conduct home visits on a regular basis and provide one to one support. It will also work with the family and carers to provide information on safe limits, drink diaries, and other useful tools, and in addition train professionals like health care workers, social workers, and carers to identify symptoms of alcohol misuse.

Foundation66 staff  will provide a  warm, confidential and friendly service for over 55s to discuss their alcohol use, and its impact on their health and wellbeing. Should the person not want to engage in treatment then Foundation66 counsellors will provide them with information and contacts should they change their mind.

Chief Executive of Foundation66, Sally Scri******  said: "There are often different factors that affect older people and drinking. Their bodies process alcohol differently and they may be taking medicine that clashes with alcohol . Our older persons' alcohol workers work  with older people in their homes or other venues to understand the effects their drinking has, and help them either reduce their alcohol consumption or stop altogether."

Cllr Rachael Robathan, Cabinet Member for Adults and Health at Westminster City Council, said:

"The national trend is that alcohol misuse among older people is rising, and this has a significant effect on NHS costs. Experts like Alcohol Concern UK say that older people can sometimes be reluctant to seek help from drink advice organisations that cater to a mixed age range.

"We hope to help those older people in Westminster whose health may be seriously affected by their use of alcohol. There are different reasons - bereavement for example - why people may drink more than is good for them later in life. This service is not there to lecture or tell people how to live their lives, but to suggest healthier options."

One person who has benefited from the Foundation66's service is Elsa*, 72, from Kensington and Chelsea. Elsa began drinking heavily in her late 50s and it worsened after the death of her husband, affecting family relationships and her physical health. Today, she chooses not to drink and is grateful for the support she's received from Foundation66.

"I was lost before I came to the service. The drinking had got out of control and my body couldn't handle it. I'd had falls and my relationships with my family were very difficult. Since I found Foundation66 I have got support and am totally off the booze, practising yoga and spending time with family and friends - I enjoy my life again"

* not her real name

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