ARBD is possibly one of the hardest conditions to care for at home… These are our top 10 tips for how to do it.
1. Limit access to alcohol – if possible, remove it completely
All the while someone is not drinking, they can recover from the damage they have sustained. Alcohol consumption – even in small quantities – will cause a slow but steady slide into significant brain damage that will be irreversible.
However, someone with ARBD is likely to lack insight into their alcohol dependency and complete abstention could be very difficult to achieve without locking the person into the house (which is obviously against the law!).
Tactics which can work include having no extra alcohol in the house and limiting access to funds so that the person cannot buy excessive amounts themselves. Some families we know were able to ask their local shop to support them in this.
2. Make sure your GP is involved.
Whether or not the person is drinking alcohol still, it is vitally important that the person is prescribed thiamine. A PPI like omeprazole is also useful as the less acid in the person’s stomach, the better the chance of vitamin and mineral absorption through their diet, regardless of their alcohol consumption.
The GP can also offer signposting to other services such as the mental health team and addiction support.
3. Concentrate on the person’s nutrition.
Whether or not the person is drinking alcohol still, their nutrition is vitally important. Their diet should be rich in vitamins and minerals and include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables rich in B vitamins. Fast food and most snacks contain nothing useful for a body already under nutritional stress.
4. Support the person with their personal hygiene.
How you do this will depend on the person. Supporting the person to lay out clean clothes the previous night to wear the following day might be a good approach. Encouraging the person to change out of their day clothes into nightwear and then taking the day clothes for washing can also help. Getting into the bath or shower doesn’t need to be a battle – lots of praise and encouragement for the person is key.
5. Exercise is really important – for both of you!
Try to get out for at least a walk every single day. Pick a route that doesn’t go past any pubs or bars or corner shops so that the alcohol need can’t be triggered. If you have a dog, this is the perfect excuse. It’s also a good way of encouraging a person to get changed into clean clothes if necessary.
Joining a walking group can be a good way for both of you to have a better time and meet new people.
6. Keep the grey cells moving
Encourage the person to do any or all of the following:
- read the paper
- read a book
- play games
- quiz shows on the television
- play memory games
- anything that stimulates the brain.
Sitting mindlessly in front of daytime television is not good for either of you.
7. Work on coping strategies
Post-It notes are your friend. Work on ways to help the person remember all the things they need to be able to do to live without your full-time support.
8. Join a group or a club
If the person has a hobby of any kind, they may have let it slip over the years. Try to re-kindle that interest. It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it doesn’t involve alcohol. You may need to discretely explain to other people that it would be great if your loved one didn’t drink alcohol with them.
If the person is amenable to it, the AA offers good support. Check on Google for support groups in your area.
9.Look after yourself
It’s so important that you find a way of taking time out for yourself. If you are completely exhausted, who is going to care for your loved one? There is nothing to gain from you being a martyr.
10. Get in touch with social services
When it eventually gets too much, social services will be able to help you access extra support for your loved one. It’s better to flag up the need earlier rather than later, because solutions don’t appear overnight. Be prepared for a long wait and a bit of a struggle getting the support you need. When the time comes, give us a call. We will be there to catch you both.
“Thank you for rescuing both of us. P was initially completely against “being dumped in a care home” as he put it, but he says he really likes being at Artichoak Cottage and enjoys the company. I know that he is safe, and I can look forward to my own future (and the occasional glass of wine!) now too.”