Dementia and the Bourbon Bottle

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Judi Lauriat 7 months ago.

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  • #60556 Reply

    Judi Lauriat

    Hello one and all. I moved in with mom 8 months ago, after dad passed. Mom’s short term memory has gone the way of the dodo bird, and couldn’t stay here in her house alone. She is well into a diagnosis of slow-progressing dementia (it became noticeable 2 years ago), and while she is still capable of caring for herself (bathing, dressing, feeding herself, etc), I need to dispense and monitor her meds, drive her, cook some of her meals (she can handle breakfast and some lunches), take care of the house. My sisters are helping with bill paying and medical issues, but I am the main caregiver.

    When my father was alive, during their 65 year marriage, he and my mom would have several after dinner cocktails in the hours before they went to bed. Since my dad’s death, mom continues to have 2-3 hefty bourbon and sodas. I started watering down the liquor (suggested by her physician), since suggestions to reduce or stop the drinking was met with great gnashing of dentures. Well, this morning I realized just how much she was drinking: I hadn’t had a chance to pour any bourbon out of the new bottle, and while she was napping I poured over a cup (8+ ounces) of water into the jug, bringing it back to a full state. In one evening, that was an impressive amount of booze…admittedly, I like a glass of wine or mixed drink on occasion, but this woman could drink me (and several guys I know) under the table.

    She is 85 years old, and barely 5’1″. She lives on the main floor of the house (I occupy the upper floor), so there is no need for her to use the stairs at night, but still…

    Now, I am working, though in a part time job as a school bus driver. I am gone for 3 hours in the mornings (back home just as she awakens), and the same amount of time in mid-afternoon. My sisters call/stop in on occasion, but for the most part, mom handles those few hours coloring, watching tv and napping. I started hitting the breaker on the oven in the afternoons, to prevent any attempts at cooking while I wasn’t home. I bring up my work status to explain why I don’t just stay in the room with her until she goes to bed – she’s a bit of a nightowl (11:30 pm is usual), while I need to be in bed by 10. In addition, I am not a tv watcher in the evenings – I enjoy spending a few hours of solitude, catching up on my own life a bit.

    So, in order to put some form of control on her imbibing, we had her MD state that she has to reduce the drinking to one per night. I wrote it on the whiteboard on the fridge, so she sees it daily. I will continue to water down the bourbon, and will try to mix her one drink late in the evening, while keeping the bottle in a cabinet where she’s not likely to look in while searching for it.

    Any other suggestions/ideas/experiences out there? Some might think she shouldn’t be drinking at all, others might figure after 65 years of nightly drinking that it’s what keeps her happy, so be it. Be that as it may, I am curious to see if fewer drinks at nights might bring on nocturnal issues. She isn’t a wanderer (thank goodness), but I wonder if her sleep patterns would be disrupted.


  • #60558 Reply

    Joy Johnston

    Hi Judi,

    It sounds like you and your doctor are approaching the matter realistically and practically. It is often said that abstaining from alcohol can actually improve sleep quality, because alcohol reduces the amount of deep REM sleep. However, for someone who has been a heavy drinker for a long period of time, I’m not sure the impact. Also, alcohol can make dementia symptoms worse. Do you know if your mother’s dementia directly alcohol-related or just an aggravating factor?

    My father had dementia and was a heavy drinker but he lost interest in alcohol as the disease progressed, satisfied with just sipping the foam off a beer. Hopefully the diluting and one drink a night will satisfy your mother. There is an alcohol-free alcohol made by ArKay, but it is glycerol-based so I cannot recommend (laxative effect among other things!)

  • #60848 Reply


    You’re really doing all you can to stop her from drinking and being quite practical about it. I hope watering it down will keep her happy and make your life a bit easier!

  • #60851 Reply

    Judi Lauriat

    Thank you, Sabina and Joy, for your responses. She found the other “hiding spaces” so I moved the full bottle up to my room, and every day pour in enough bourbon into an empty bottle for two small drinks per evening, cut with water. So, when she makes her drink in the evening, she can see she’s “almost out” and adjusts her drink-making accordingly. I confiscate the empty bottle every morning, and “refill” it, putting it back while she naps in the afternoon. So far, so good.

  • #61445 Reply


    Geesh…she’s 85, and not a mean drunk. Let her be.

  • #61455 Reply

    Judi Lauriat

    Kristi, I agree with you overall, regarding the evening cocktails. The issues I am concerned with are the times she forgets how many she had in an evening, and subsequently the possibility of her falling after having that much liquor. There were times when she would drink over 8 oz of 100 proof bourbon, within a 3 hour period! And she not a large woman. 5’2″…. So, by keeping the bottle she sees with just enough for two reasonable drinks (I refill it every day), I can go to bed knowing she isn’t wandering the house smashed.

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