Lifelong Health & Aging

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Piedmont Geriatric Hospital

Project Description:
Substance abuse by older adults with cognitive impairments is a hidden problem in our society. Adding to the complexity of substance misuse and abuse in older adults is memory loss, which may or may not be connected to the substance use. Some of the substance misuse may be unintentional and impacted by the number of prescription medications being taken and the presence of dementia.

This project assessed issues of substance abuse as they related to issues of aging, particularly memory loss.
A number of questions were addressed including:

  • How frequently is a dual diagnosis made?
  • What are the warning signs and predictors?
  • How is treatment most effectively delivered?
  • The causes for the abuse and how the abuse is linked to dementia were examined.

In addition, barriers to treatment were uncovered. Focus groups with inpatient and outpatient treatment teams were conducted as well as a review of medical records from Piedmont Geriatric Hospital, and surveys of direct care workers to better understand barriers to screening and treatment in older populations.

The project team has worked closely with representatives from the Florida BRITE (Brief Intervention Treatment and Education) Project and will continue to explore funding opportunities to pilot a program similar to BRITE in Virginia.

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