Understanding co-occurring alcohol and mental health problems amongst older people, and developing holistic, age-tailored and integrated approaches in local primary care and community alcohol and mental health services.
This study aims to understand how primary care and community alcohol and mental health services can support older people (aged 55+) with co-existing alcohol and mental health problems, as well as support their informal caregivers.
To do this, we need to understand the support needs of this patient group and their informal caregivers, and consider how these can be met within services.
Older people and harmful drinking
Most older people using alcohol at harmful levels have mental health problems; where common stresses in old age such as retirement, widowhood, and ill health can trigger anxiety and depression, and drinking to cope.
Stresses experienced by older people during COVID-19 have driven further increases in alcohol and mental health problems.
Tailored support to meet the specific needs of older people with co-existing alcohol and mental health problems is needed, as these patients currently fall between primary care, alcohol services and mental health services, which are ill-equipped to meet their complex support needs.
Supporting somebody with unmet, complex needs is also challenging, therefore the informal caregivers’ own support needs must also be considered in developing holistic support for the patient group.
This study will give older people with co-occurring alcohol and mental health problems, and their informal caregivers, an opportunity to contribute to developing services that will support them and their peers in the North East and North Cumbria.
The study will:
Conduct one-to-one interviews with older people with co-occurring alcohol and mental health problems; informal caregivers; and commissioners and practitioners working in supporting primary care, alcohol and mental health services, to understand older people’s experiences of co-existing alcohol and mental health problems, and their support needs.
Conduct workshops with these patients, informal caregivers and supporting primary care and community alcohol and mental health practitioners, to develop holistic and age-appropriate approaches to support older people with coexisting alcohol and mental health problems within these services.
Co-producing qualitative research and intervention development with peer researchers as part of this project
Peer researchers with lived experience of co-occurring alcohol and mental health problems in old age have been actively involved in the co-production of this research. Their involvement has included contributing to patient recruitment materials and supporting with interviews, by supporting interviewees openness.
An overview of this co-production approach was shared during the Society for Social Medicine and Population Health Annual Scientific Meeting in September 23.
This study is funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria (NENC) Open Funding Competition 2021 and runs from March 2022 until March 2024.
Project lead: Dr Beth Bareham, Newcastle University
To find out more, email [email protected]