Alcohol Awareness Week 2023 Dementia Hwb Awareness 3 – 9 July
This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, run by Alcohol Change UK. In the UK alcohol is used during celebrations and during hard times. It has been described as the ‘Uk’s favourite coping mechanism’ (Publications | Mental Health Foundation), often used to provide a short term escape from current feelings, while long term use can contribute to many internal consequences. One such consequence being Alcohol Related Dementia.
Alcohol & The Brain
Alcohol Related Dementia is most common in people in their 40s and 50s, and accounts for 10% of early-onset dementia cases (Alcohol related brain damage – Dementia UK). It is a form of brain damage caused by excessive use of alcohol (5+ years of 35+ units per week) (Alcohol-related brain damage – quick guide for professionals | Alcohol Change UK), which can lead to memory loss and difficulties in performing day-to-day tasks (Alcohol-related ‘dementia’ | Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk). Frequent overconsumption of alcohol prevents the body from getting enough thiamine (vitamin B1), essential for turning food into energy to keep our nervous systems and brains healthy (About thiamine – NHS (www.nhs.uk). Wernicke’s Encephalopathy can occur when the brain does not receive enough thiamine, leading to intense swelling of the brain, with symptoms including: disorientation, difficulty controlling eye movement, poor balance, and being undernourished. If left untreated the person is likely to develop a long-term condition called Korsakoff syndrome/dementia, symptoms include; changes in personality, false memories and memory loss, problems with learning, concentrating and decision making (Alcohol related dementia and Korsakoff’s Syndrome (fshc.co.uk).
For individuals who have already received a diagnosis of dementia, it is important to follow GP guidelines on whether any alcohol intake is appropriate, as alcohol can accelerate the onset of symptoms.
Protecting The Brain
Being mindful of what we consume is a key step in protecting our brains. We can also:
- Consume no more than 14 units per week (6 pints of lager, 1.5 bottles of wine per week).
- Have alcohol free days and substituting for non-alcoholic drinks.
- Manage stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms with healthy coping mechanisms such as: exercise, meditation, connecting with people, alone time, or counselling.
- Consume a balanced diet.
- Avoid smoking.
What Support Is Available?
It is important to understand that reducing alcohol intake can be extremely difficult for some people, so showing understanding and patience for yourself or others is necessary. Raising awareness and reducing the stigma for those actively seeking to help themselves is a must. If you have concerns about any of the conditions named above please seek advice from your GP.
Support Services For Alcohol Use:
- Alcoholics Anonymous – Provide a free helpline to support those affected Alcoholics Anonymous Great Britain (alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk)
- Alcohol Change UK – Focus on reducing alcohol harm, from mental and physical to societal and economic What we do | Alcohol Change UK
- We Are With You – Offer free, confidential support for yourself or a person you are concerned about relating to alcohol, drugs and mental health Home – With You (wearewithyou.org.uk)
- SMART Recovery – Helps individuals decide whether they have a problem, build up motivation to change, and offer proven tools and techniques to support recovery Self-Help Addiction Recovery | UK Smart Recovery
Dementia Specific Support Services:
- Age UK – Offer community-based support services for people living with dementia and their carers Dementia support services in your area | Age UK
- Alzheimer’s Society – Free dementia advice for those affected by dementia, worried about a diagnosis or are a carer for a person with dementia Contact us | Alzheimer’s Society (alzheimers.org.uk)
- Dementia UK – Offer support or advice about dementia, with a free Dementia Helpline Specialist support to families facing dementia | Dementia UK
Article by Abigail Davies
You Are Not Alone
Remember, you are not alone. If you have concerns about your memory, care for someone with dementia or are looking for additional information and advice the Dementia Hwb is here for you. You can visit the Hwb 7 days a week between 11am-3pm, call us on 01792 304519 or email us on email@example.com.
We can also offer memory assessments with the Community Memory Support Team for Swansea Bay University Health Board. This is not a diagnosis but instead designed for people without a diagnosis who are worried about their memory to see if they need further referral to a GP or alternate memory test.