Are You Allowed To Drink Alcohol in Assisted Living?

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

Moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption in assisted living facilities. However, assisted living communities generally don’t have specific guidelines when it comes to their alcohol policies. So keep on reading to learn more if seniors are allowed to drink alcohol in assisted living together with other factors to consider.

Are You Allowed To Drink Alcohol in Assisted Living

Moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption in assisted living facilities. However, assisted living communities generally don’t have specific guidelines when it comes to their alcohol policies. So keep on reading to learn more if seniors are allowed to drink alcohol in assisted living together with other factors to consider.

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Alcohol is deeply embedded within Western culture and has been for a long time.

In the West, alcohol is used for just about every imaginable purpose. Weddings are celebrated with alcohol, deceased loved ones are honored with a toast, and a beer is what helps many people relax after a hard day’s work.

Just like many enjoyable things, however, alcohol can be dangerous in excess. Alcohol can ruin even young and healthy individuals.

Excessive alcohol consumption can destroy the liver, kill brain cells, cause addiction, and even malnourishment. It is also behind the numerous traffic accidents that claim both lives and limbs throughout the world.

If your aging loved one is no longer able to live alone, whether or not they had an alcohol problem when they were younger, you may consider moving them to an assisted living community.

However, you may be wondering whether alcohol is allowed in assisted living. Keep reading to learn whether alcohol is allowed in assisted living, policies and procedures, and more.

Can You Drink Anytime You Want in Assisted Living?

Simply put, no, residents living in assisted living facilities are not allowed to drink alcohol anytime they want. Even if the assisted living facility does allow alcohol consumption, it will likely have restrictions in place governing the times when residents are allowed to drink.

Can You Drink Anywhere You Want in Assisted Living?

No. If drinking is allowed in the assisted living community, there are usually designated areas where residents can drink safely and privately.

Whether you choose to consume alcohol for a celebration, with a meal, etc., as long as the facility permits alcohol on the premises, you may be able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, but only in the designated areas.

The designated areas in assisted living facilities where residents are permitted to drink alcohol are their apartments as well as the communal areas.

In fact, it actually isn’t uncommon to find assisted living facilities that have a bar and even a happy hour or special events where residents can drink socially.

drink alcohol in assisted living with meals
In most cases, alcohol is not served with meals in assisted living facilities.

Do Assisted Living Facilities Serve Alcohol with Meals?

The vast majority of assisted living facilities typically don’t serve alcohol with meals.

Still, some facilities do serve wine with lunch and dinner, and others have happy hour once each week, but as with all alcohol service and consumption, there should be a careful approach and some limitations. 

Even if alcohol is consumed at an assisted living facility, this only happens under the supervision of staff in a controlled environment. Staff should also know which residents cannot consume alcohol and make sure that it isn’t served. 

Should an Assisted Living Facility Serve Alcohol to Residents?

Rules governing the operation of assisted living communities come from the state and local levels, which means that there’s no national rule that governs things such as the consumption of alcohol.

The question as to whether an assisted living community should serve alcohol lies more in the health and overall wellness of residents.

Alcohol consumption is surprisingly prevalent in assisted living facilities and with good reason. Many of the residents regularly consume a glass of wine with their dinner, as they have been doing for many years prior to their arrival at the facility.

Other residents prefer having a night-cap cocktail before they retire for the evening.

The main issue with assisted living communities serving alcohol to residents is their age. Age comes with an increase in health issues.

The health issues that seniors face often require prescription medication intervention. In most cases, it is never a good idea to consume prescription drugs with alcohol.

So, should assisted living communities actually serve alcohol to residents?

Moderation, when it comes to alcohol consumption, is a critical component for assisted living communities to put into practice.

Assisted living communities should promote the health benefits of moderating alcohol consumption. Overindulgence should not only be discouraged but also against facility policy.

Simply put, alcohol should never be offered or provided to residents in whom consumption isn’t medically advantageous.

Since seniors are more likely to experience greater sensitivity to alcohol, due to their advanced age, increased health problems, or bad interactions with medications, assisted living facilities should be mindful of their alcohol policies and procedures to keep residents safe.

How Do Assisted Living Communities Determine Their Alcohol Policies?

Assisted living facilities generally don’t have specific guidelines that they are required to follow when determining their alcohol policies.

Complete prohibition often becomes unrealistic and almost impossible to enforce. Facilities have to first analyze several different frameworks when deciding on their alcohol policies.

The 3 key frameworks that assisted living communities should consider when determining their alcohol policies are:

  • Public Health
  • Rights of Residents
  • Legal Regulations

1. Public Health

When it comes to determining their alcohol policies, assisted living communities need to first consider the possibility of health-related health and whether or not permitting alcohol consumption is considered good for the public.

Under the country’s public health framework, assisted living facilities also need to consider the risks to the individual compared to the benefits to the individual’s consumption of alcohol.

2. Rights of Residents

Resident rights laws were created as part of the 1978 Nursing Home Reform Act to make sure that the residents living in senior living facilities had rights that were not only promoted but also protected.

In senior living facilities, such as assisted living, as long as the behavior of residents isn’t negatively impacting the rest of the residents, they have the right to participate in activities that they enjoy and don’t cause or promote harm to either themselves or others.

Part of the resident rights framework considers basic human rights, such as the psychological and social harm that an older individual is likely to experience when something that they find pleasurable, such as alcohol consumption, is taken away from them, such as:

  • Feeling frustrated because of their loss of control
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of culture

However, excessive drinking and associated behaviors could lead to a person being evicted from assisted living.

3. Legal Regulations

The legal framework that assisted living communities need to consider when determining their alcohol policies involves legal mechanisms such as legislation, regulations, and common law that influence the decisions of residents to consume alcohol. 

The legal framework also considers the decision-making abilities of the resident such as their cognitive ability to make a decision regarding their alcohol consumption.

If you are trying to choose an assisted living community and would like to know whether or not alcohol consumption is permitted in the facility, it can be advisable to ask each facility about its alcohol policies and procedures. 

drink alcohol in assisted living control consumption
It is difficult to closely monitor your loved one’s alcohol consumption in assisted living.

Can You Control Your Loved One’s Drinking and Alcohol Consumption in Assisted Living?

Generally speaking, no.

The residents in assisted living enjoy the right to do what they would like to do as long as it is lawful, including alcohol consumption. 

Still, there are situations where staff can recommend and advise residents to refrain from consuming alcohol. Certain medical conditions and medications may potentially harm the resident when combined with alcohol consumption. 

In such situations where alcohol avoidance is advised from a medical perspective, it is important that the resident’s physician and pharmacist understand the desires of the residents, seek approval, and have it documented in the records of the resident. 

Besides contacting the resident’s medical providers, it can be good practice to ensure that the decision not to consume alcohol and the recommendations of the medical staff are added to that resident’s care plan. 

Do Any Assisted Living Centers Help Seniors with Alcohol Addiction?

Yes.

It is very important that seniors suffering from alcohol addiction have access to treatment services. Alcohol dependence can have a very major negative effect on the lives of seniors.

That’s why it is important to find the right resources to prevent further physical damage and end substance dependence altogether.

Fortunately, there are assisted living centers that help seniors with alcohol addiction. Still, it is important to ensure that you choose the right facility to ensure that your loved one’s alcohol addiction doesn’t get worse.

To help you find the right facility, you should look for credentials in the following areas:

  • Staff Certifications: You need to find out the number of staff persons working in the assisted living facility who are certified to work with residents in need of addiction treatment.
  • Medication Guidelines: You should also find out what the policies and procedures are for the distribution and storage of medications. 
  • Counseling Services: You should also find out whether any on-site counseling services are offered or whether there’s access to counseling services with a contracting addiction specialist.
  • Alcohol Restrictions: You should also find out whether alcohol is permissible, readily consumed, regulated, or deregulated. Keep in mind that each facility will vary in its rules concerning alcohol.
  • Group Program: Group therapy is important for seniors suffering from addiction. Find out whether there’s an active therapy group within the facility.
  • Mental Health Resources: Mental health services are important for all seniors, but particularly for those dealing with addiction.

So, before buying that case of beer to bring to your assisted living community, make sure you know your community’s rules. Better yet, make sure you fully understand them before signing the contract.

Photo of author

Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP, CRTS®

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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