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Wernike-Koraskoff Syndrome: Another Name for Alcohol-Related Dementia

  • anonymous Asks ...

    My father is 81 and has moderate dementia. He forgets that he drinks and doesn't think he has a problem, but he has two DUIs and now he is walking to the liquor store and drinking on the way home with the police following him. Is there any hope of finding a treatment center for him or will he have to be arrested before anything can be done to help him?

  • Delisted Expert Says ...

    Alcohol-related dementia is the 3rd or fourth type of intellectual loss among the elderly. The problem is that it is frequently misdiagnosed and often requires a clear clinical history and thorough physical examination by primary care physicians. Approximately 8% of the elderly have serious drinking problems which are often overlooked by family and healthcare providers, alike. However, it should be noted that Medicare spends more money on alcohol-related problems than on treatment for heart attacks. Because long term heavy drinking damages brain cells or causes long term health conditions which cause brain damage, elderly alcoholics must show sufficient cognitive deficits to meet the criteria for dementia and a significant history of substance abuse to qualify for a diagnosis of alcohol-related dementia diagnosis. For more information concerning this, please visit http://www.alzbrain.org/pdf/handouts/6001.ALCOHOL%20INDUCED%20DEMENTIA.pdf

    Another name for alcohol-related dementia is Wernike-Koraskoff Syndrome. What actually causes it is a deficiency of Vitamin B1 (thiamine). The role of thee B1 vitamin is to provide energy to the brain. Without receiving proper nutrition and a required energy source, the brain begins to deteriorate. If this is caught in its early stages, a person can often show improved brain functioning.

     This is what can be done for your father in a step-by-step methodology:

    1. Enroll the assistance of knowledgeable physicians and mental health professionals who have worked with alcoholism.
    2. Increase your father’s intake of the B vitamins, especially B1 (thiamine). Go to this link for a list of B1 enriched foods: http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/thiamin-b1-foods.php
    3. Use the strategy of preventing your father from drinking and increase his B1 intake.
    4. Have your father thoroughly assessed with treatment recommendations for his alcoholism, dementia, and any associated medical problems, e.g., anorexia nervosa, malnutrition, etc.
    5. Develop strategies with a physician, the police, the liquor store(s) and mental health professionals to prevent you father from drinking.
    6. Enlist the services of mental health professionals or caseworkers to help you and your family work through family issues surrounding your father’s serious deterioration and progressed alcoholism.
    7. To provide adequate assistance to your father, it is important that you provide self-care for yourself and other involved family members.
    8. Lastly, consider going to Al-Anon where families and friends learn about alcoholism, ways to support the recovery of the alcoholic and, to learn self care. A local meeting can be found at: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/

    For more information about alcohol-related dementia, please go to this website which offers more detailed information: http://www.zarcrom.com/users/alzheimers/odem/al7.html

    I hope this response has been adequate to meet your need and concern for your father. Please know that it is important for the family to understand that your father may be genetically predisposed to alcoholism and other family members may also be susceptible. Therefore, it is critical that the family become informed and utilize the professional services of those cited above.

    If I may be of further service to you and your family, please contact me at your earliest convenience. Best of luck to your father and your intervention(s) with him.


    John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, MSW, MA, LPC, NCC

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