Information for the public

Information for families and carers

It can be difficult if a member of your family or someone you are a carer for has a drinking problem. However, families and carers can play an important part in supporting a person who misuses alcohol and helping them to stay alcohol-free after treatment. If your family member or friend has a drinking problem, their GP or other care staff should ask them whether they would like you to be involved in their care.

If your family member or friend agrees, you should be given information on alcohol misuse and on how you can support them throughout treatment. For example, you might be able to support them when taking their medication and you may also be involved in their psychological treatment. However, care staff should respect their privacy if they would prefer not to have anyone else involved in their treatment or would prefer to keep certain details private. Care staff should also respect your privacy.

As a family member or carer, you may need help and support yourself. Care staff should ask you about the effect of the person's drinking problem on you and other family members (including children and their education and relationships). They should give you advice and information about this. Anyone with a caring role has the right to a carer's assessment.

Care staff should ask you about your needs and those of other family members, and should offer you services to help. These may include:

  • providing self-help materials (where you work through a self-help manual with the help of staff)

  • support groups, for example self-help groups specifically for families and carers of people with a drinking problem.

If these do not help, you may be offered family meetings to:

  • give you further information and education about drinking problems

  • help you to identify types of stress related to the drinking problem

  • help you to develop ways of coping.

Information for families and carers of children and young people with a drinking problem

This information covers the care and treatment that children and young people (aged 10–17 years) should be offered for drinking problems, described in treatments for children and young people. When your child is first seen by care staff, you may be asked about your child's drinking and behaviour so they can offer your child the most suitable treatment. The treatments for drinking problems for children and young people include planned alcohol withdrawal and psychological treatments, some of which involve all the family. Treatment should be provided in a centre that specialises in mental health problems in children and young people.

Information for families and carers of people with Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome is a serious long-term condition caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1), which harms the brain and nervous system (see treatments for other health problems).

People who have Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome may be offered a place in a supported independent living environment if they have mild symptoms, or a place with 24-hour supportive care if they have moderate or severe symptoms. The environment should be adapted to their needs and should support them in staying alcohol-free.

Questions for family members, friends or carers to ask

  • Can you give me some information about treatments for alcohol misuse?

  • Are you able to tell me about the treatment my family member or friend is having?

  • What can I do to support my family member or friend?

  • What does planned withdrawal from alcohol involve and how can I support my family member or friend?

  • Will I be asked to join my family member or friend in psychological treatment? If so, what will this involve?

  • Can you give me any information about specialist support for families and carers, such as helplines and help during a crisis?

  • What help is available if my family member or friend develops Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome?

  • Information Standard