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Issues of alcohol misuse among older people: attitudes and experiences of social work practitioners

Shaw, Catherine and Palattiyil, George (2008) Issues of alcohol misuse among older people: attitudes and experiences of social work practitioners. Practice: Social Work in Action, 20 (3). pp. 181-193.

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Abstract

This small-scale qualitative research focused on the experiences of social workers vis--vis older people who misuse alcohol. Based in an Older People's Team in the west of Scotland, the study explored service provision for alcohol misuse and examined whether practitioners felt the existing services provided by the Substance Misuse Team were effective in meeting the needs of older people with an alcohol problem. Using semi-structured interviews, data were collected from 18 participants, the majority (14) of whom were female and whose ages ranged from 31 to 54 years. Several key themes emerged including the extent of alcohol problems among older people and the complex reasons that cause older people to misuse alcohol. These reasons commonly related to the increasing challenges of old age. The data also demonstrated that current services are not meeting the needs of older people. Practitioners identified a need for an 'age-specific' approach to target more effectively the complex needs of older people. Recommendations from practitioners included ways to develop new and more effective services, including a more age-specific service, such as providing longer term support in older people's own homes, using a specialised support worker, and increasing staff training on alcohol use among older people.