Alcohol Related Dementia (ARD) refers to a form of dementia caused by long-term, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, resulting in neurological damage and impaired cognitive function. It is well established that excessive and prolonged alcohol use can lead to permanent damage to the structure and function of the brain. Evidence also suggests a relationship between moderate to heavy consumption of alcohol to cognitive impairment. While Alcohol-induced persistent dementia or alcohol-related dementia is widely acknowledged, the diagnosis is not often used.
Signs & Symptoms Of Alcohol Related Dementia
Some signs and symptoms of ARD include:
- Confusion and loss of mental activity
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Abnormal eye movements, such as back and forth movements
- Double vision
- Eyelid drooping
- Inability to form new memories
- Loss of memory
Alcohol has a direct effect on brain cells, resulting in poor judgment, difficulty making decisions, and lack of insight. Nutrition problems which often accompany long time alcohol abuse can be another contributing factor, since parts of the brain may be damaged by vitamin deficiencies. Autopsy evaluations suggest that up to 78% of individuals with diagnosed alcoholism demonstrate some degree of brain pathology
Recommended Alcohol Intake For Seniors
The Department of Health has set drinking recommendations to:
- No more than 3-4 units daily for men
- No more than 2-3 units daily for women
Drinking in excess of this recommendation and long-term alcohol consumption is considered to be generally harmful. Specific alcohol is less important than the quantity and patterns of drinking. Studies also suggest that individuals with ARD are often socially isolated, more likely to be men, and typically have a younger age of onset than those with other forms of dementia.
Can Alcohol Related Dementia Be Reversed?
The decline in cognitive or physical functioning in alcohol-related dementia is relatively non-progressive in abstinent ex-drinkers, or even partially reversible. There may be improvement with an increase in brain volume over a period of up to a year in recovering alcoholics.
Studies suggest recovery improvement can include:
- Working memory
- Visual and spatial functioning
- Problem solving
Recovery of cognitive skills appears to be linked to the amount of recent alcohol use and duration of abstinence rather than lifetime alcohol consumption. Impairments in areas of learning and short-term memory are more persistent. Multiple withdrawals and binge drinking may significantly exacerbate cognitive deficits. Older drinkers show greater alcohol-related cognitive changes and are less likely to recover function once they cease drinking.
Because of the evidence that suggests that alcohol-related dementia is less progressive than Alzheimer’s disease, and even partially reversible, these factors may be important in finding the most living supportive environment.
Alcohol Related Dementia Support
When looking at senior living in Athens, it will be important that the staff and community are able to support someone with alcohol-related dementia. The staff of Orchard at Athens will work with you and your family to find creative solutions to support your loved one. Contact us to learn more about our community and programs.