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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Alcohol use among community dwelling older adults Plested, Sushma


Alcohol use among community dwelling older adults is fast becoming a major health concern in Canada. It is fast becoming a major precursor for social dysfunction as many have experienced destructive relationships, financial despair, and social isolation. This population often falls victim to ageist views held by health care providers, delaying recognition and assistance in relation to alcohol misuse. Perhaps the most important gap is the lack of qualitative research that will study the experience of alcohol misuse in older adults from their perspective and try to understand their readiness for change. This critical ethnography explored the attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, and experiences of alcohol use among community dwelling older adults within their social, cultural, or political context with an aim to elicit a change during the process. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with a total of eighteen individuals; 1) study participants (N=11) that were older adults and dwelled in an urban center in the Interior of British Columbia, and who used alcohol, and 2) key informants (N=7) who had extensive experience with substance use issues working in a variety of fields within the community. Audio-taped interviews were transcribed and analyzed. Using Carspecken’s framework of analysis, three main themes and thirteen subthemes were identified. This study examined the role of environmental factors early in older adults’ life and their influence in forming beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours, related to alcohol use later in life. It examined the older adults’ drinking patterns, consequences of alcohol use, additional substance use, and barriers to seeking assistance. Findings in this study indicated that early adverse life experiences increase the chances of alcohol misuse later in life. Adjunct use of other substances indicated the changing characteristics of this population and the potential increase in health care costs as baby boomers become a predominant faction of the older adult population. Results of the study indicated improved access to nursing services at the primary health care level, a change of physicians’ attitudes, increased resources, and community support would encourage this population to seek out help. These themes have implications for nursing practice, education, nursing administration, and further research.

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