Part I – Understanding and Caring for Individuals with Alcohol Induced Brain Disorders
Treatment and recovery from alcohol induced brain disorders is rarely possible without family involvement. Individuals suffering from Alcohol Dementia, also known as Wernicke’s-Korsakoff Syndrome, need to be taken care of, both during and after treatment. Individuals who have suffered from these disorders rarely recover completely and need help with managing their lives. This is where friends and family should step in.
Looking after individuals suffering from alcohol induced brain disorders can be a very challenging task. Disease symptoms and strained relationships can make helping these individuals very difficult. Understanding the affected individuals and why they behave the way they do can help in providing better care for them.
Individuals suffering from alcohol induced brain diseases often have a tendency to repeat themselves, asking the same question over and over again in a conversation or demanding the same thing, repeatedly. For instance, they may ask for their next meal over and over again despite having already eaten. This may cause family members to get irritated ? even angry. Firstly, it is important to understand that they do not do this purposely and that impairments in short term memory, a common consequence of long term excessive drinking, cause this behavior. Secondly, the affected individuals are unaware that they are repeating themselves, so getting angry or irritated does not help. Indeed, it may cause the affected individual to get more frustrated or agitated with family members and friends. A better way of dealing with this situation would be to distract the individual with something else, or to change the subject.
Another common symptom of alcohol induced brain disorders, worthy of mention here, is confusion and disorientation (in time, person or place). When severe, disorientation can be hazardous for the affected individual. A highly probable and potentially dangerous consequence of this symptom is getting lost. Disoriented individuals may wander off somewhere on their way home, or suddenly become unaware of their surroundings when outside and be unable to find their way back. When this symptom is severe, family members/caregivers will want to make sure these individuals are never left unattended, especially in unfamiliar places.
Brain damage and cognitive impairment in alcoholism is also accompanied by changes in the affected individuals’ personalities. This only adds to the challenges of caring for these individuals. Anger or indifference, paranoia, fear of being left alone and insensitivity to those around them are just some of the personality changes that take place with alcohol induced brain damage, which make it difficult to look after these individuals. Additionally, family members may resent the affected individual because they have been an alcoholic most of their lives. Sufferers may be disliked and even shunned by friends and family.
What is important to understand is that these individuals are sick. They should be treated and taken care of like someone suffering from fever or some other physical ailment. They do not intentionally behave the way they do. Their behaviors are symptoms of a disease. Individuals suffering from alcohol induced disorders need, along with treatment, to be loved and supported by those around them, even though they may be unintentionally hurting or driving their family members and friends away from them.