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Alcohol and Assisted Living

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Can You Drink Alcohol in Assisted Living? A Review of Common Policies

You’re looking for an assisted living facility for yourself or your loved one, or maybe you’re living in an assisted living community, and you’re curious … 

Can you drink alcohol in assisted living? 

A Google search can have you finding answers for hours, which is why we’re providing all the information you need in this article. 

Keep reading to learn if you can drink alcohol in assisted living, policies and procedures, and more.

Table of Contents

Can You Drink in Assisted Living?

Generally speaking, yes, a resident living in assisted living can drink alcohol. 

But this doesn’t mean that every assisted living facility encourages or allows the consumption of alcohol. If drinking is permitted in the facility, there are typically designated areas for residents to drink privately and safely. 

Whether they choose to consume alcohol with a meal, for a celebration, etc., as long as the assisted living facility permits alcohol on the premises, you may be able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage.

Since seniors may experience increased sensitivity to alcohol, due to age, increased health problems or bad interactions with medication, many assisted living facilities have to be mindful of their policies and procedures to keep residents safe.

Is There a Standard Policy Regarding Alcohol Consumption in Assisted Living Communities?

There are no specific requirements or regulations for assisted living centers to develop policies and restrictions on alcohol consumption. 

It is a resident’s choice whether or not they want to consume alcohol. Because this choice is considered an activity, generally, there are no physician’s orders or policy needed. 

For a resident living in assisted living to consume alcohol, they should: 

  • Not be taking any medications that would negatively interact with the alcohol

  • Have no medical conditions that alcohol may have a negative impact

  • Be above the age of 21.

How Does an Assisted Living Community Determine Its Alcohol Policy?

As we mentioned, assisted living facilities have no specific guidelines they must follow when determining an alcohol policy. Oftentimes, complete prohibition becomes unrealistic and difficult to enforce — facilities must analyze several different frameworks when deciding on an alcohol policy. 

Three major frameworks assisted living facilities should consider when determining an alcohol policy are: 

  • Public health

  • Resident rights; and 

  • Legal regulations

Public Health

When analyzing alcohol policies, assisted living facilities must consider the possibility of health-related harm and whether or not allowing alcohol consumption is perceived to be good for the public. 

Under the public health framework, assisted living facilities should also consider the individuals’ risks vs. the individual benefits associated with consuming alcohol.

Resident Rights

As part of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, resident rights laws were created to ensure that residents living in senior living facilities had rights that were promoted and protected. 

In senior living facilities, like assisted living, as long as residents’ behavior is not negatively impacting other residents, they have the right to participate in activities they enjoy and do not cause or promote harm to themselves or others. 

Part of the resident rights framework considers basic human rights, like the social and psychological harm that an older person might experience when something they find pleasurable — like consuming alcohol — is taken away from them, such as: 

  • Social isolation

  • Feelings of frustration due to loss of control

  • Loss of culture

  • Etc.

Legal Regulations

The legal framework that assisted living facilities should consider when creating an alcohol policy involves legal mechanisms, like …  

  • Legislation

  • Regulations; and 

  • Common law

… that influences residents' decisions to consume alcohol. This framework also takes into consideration a resident’s decision-making abilitieswhat is the resident’s cognitive ability to make a decision about consuming alcohol? 

If you are trying to choose a retirement community and are interested in whether or not drinking alcohol is permitted in assisted living and having your other needs met, be sure to ask each facility about their policies and procedures.

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Are There Residents in Assisted Living Who Cannot Drink Alcohol? 

Generally speaking, no. 

The residents in assisted living have the right to what they would like to do, including consuming alcohol. Still, there are situations where staff can recommend and advise that the resident abstains from consuming alcohol. 

There are certain medical conditions and medications, that when combined with consuming alcohol, may potentially harm the resident. 

In these situations, where it is advised to avoid alcohol from a medical perspective, it is ideal if the resident’s physician and pharmacist understand the resident’s desires, and get approval, and have it documented in the resident’s records. 

In addition to contacting their medical providers, it’s good practice to add the decision to consume alcohol and the advice of the medical staff to the resident’s care plan. 

What do some of these medications and medical conditions include? We cover some of these in the following sections.

Medications

  • Allergy, sinus, cold, and flu medications

  • Angina medications

  • Epilepsy, anti-seizure, and anti-anxiety medications 

  • Antibiotics

  • Antidepressants

  • Anti-nausea medications

  • Blood thinners

  • Cholesterol medications

  • Certain diabetes medications

  • Certain Heartburn medications

  • Hypertension medications

  • Muscle relaxers

  • Opioids

  • Over-the-counter pain medications

  • Sleep aids

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can also be negatively affected by alcohol consumption, including: 

  • Osteoporosis

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Stroke

  • Ulcers

  • Mood disorders

  • Memory loss

  • Etc.

Seniors enjoying beer and wine

Where May an Assisted Living Resident Drink Alcohol?

Residents in assisted living may be able to drink alcohol in the comfort of their apartment as well as communal areas. 

It is not uncommon for some assisted living facilities to have a bar and a happy hour or special events to drink among community members socially.

Can an Assisted Living Community Serve Alcohol to Residents?

Every assisted living community has different rules and procedures when it comes to alcohol consumption. Because there is no set guideline, it is up to the facility to decide if they will serve alcohol to its residents — as long as they are of legal drinking age.

There are special circumstances in which an assisted living facility may serve residents alcohol, and we touch on these below.

Social Drinking in Assisted Living Communities: 3 Scenarios 

Some assisted living facilities may serve alcohol on specific alcohol-related events to help residents feel like they still have the freedom to enjoy things like: 

  • Oktoberfest — a facility may have a beer tasting night full of German beers

  • Baseball opening day — think beer and hot dogs at the ballpark

  • Mimosa’s for Sunday brunch

  • St. Patricks’ Day

  • Religious events

  • Etc.

But there are also certain events that facilities may create to help residents feel more independent while promoting safety. The following are examples of ways a community may safely serve alcohol to residents.

#1: Social Hour

To help keep assisted living facility residents engaged in social events, they may have a regular happy hour. 

This gives residents the chance to interact with one another, make new friends, or feel as though they’re on an outing without having to leave the facility.

#2: Wine Club

Are you or your loved one a fan of wine? Maybe you’re looking for a way to connect with others in your community and learn more about their passions or hobbies? 

If your facility has a wine club, and you enjoy a nightcap every now and again, participating in wine clubs or other related events is a great way to feel like you’re a part of your community. 

#3: Beer Tasting

Whether it’s Oktoberfest, with a beer tasting of German beers, or maybe a new brewery has been built in town — facilities may have an occasional beer tasting night to get residents out and about within the community.

Senior Services of America: Maintain Your Independence While Getting Support When You Need It  

Are you, or your loved one, looking for a senior living facility that feels like home, but still supports your physical, emotional, and social needs? 

Everyone wants to continue living as normal as possible, even after moving into assisted living. 

That’s why Senior Services of America is committed to helping residents maintain independence while getting the support they need. Whether that’s a glass of wine at dinner or a beer during the big game — we’re here with your best interests in mind. 

Interested in learning more about our communities? Click below to learn how we can support you or the needs of your loved one.

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Senior Services of America

800-689-0493

1201 Pacific Avenue Suite 450 Tacoma, WA 98402 US