Impact of problem alcohol use on patient behavior and caregiver burden in a geriatric assessment clinic

S. Pirzada Sattar, Prasad R. Padala, Delores McArthur-Miller, William H. Roccaforte, Steven P. Wengel, William J. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


There has been a growing interest in understanding issues surrounding alcohol use in late life. Information about the relationship of alcohol use to behavioral problems in older persons living in the community is particularly limited. This study used information obtained from an outpatient geriatric assessment clinic to study this relationship and the effects of these behaviors on caregivers. Data on alcohol use, problem behaviors, and caregiver burden were collected prospectively in consecutive patients undergoing geriatric assessment primarily for cognitive problems over a 3-year period. All patients were evaluated by a multidisciplinary team, which included a geriatric psychiatrist. The evaluation screened for current and/or past alcohol use through interviews with the patient and a collateral source. The collateral source also completed the Neuropsychiatric Inventory and the Family Burden Scale. Subjects were classified into 2 groups: those with a current or past alcohol problem and those with no alcohol problem. A total of 349 patients were evaluated, with 17.8% being designated as having a current or past alcohol problem. This subgroup represented 35% of the men and 9% of the women from the study population. Approximately half of the subgroup was actively drinking alcohol. Patients with a history of problem alcohol use, regardless of current use and cognitive status, exhibited more behavioral disturbances including agitation, irritability, and disinhibition. Their caregivers reported significantly higher caregiver distress. Current or past alcohol problem use was frequent in this population of frail, older adults undergoing geriatric assessment. Regardless of current alcohol use, these patients displayed more behavioral disturbances than those without a history of problem drinking, and their caregivers experienced significantly more burden. A history of problem drinking appears to be a significant marker for behavioral disturbances in late life and merits further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-127
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Alcohol
  • Caregiver burden
  • Geriatric
  • Problem behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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