Excessive alcohol use and abuse of prescription and non-prescription drugs among older adults represents a major, but often neglected, public health problem. Substance abuse is often a private struggle with behaviors that manifest themselves at home. Home health aides (HHAs) have unique, and underrepresented, insight into the lives of older adults. Results from the Home Care Aide Foundation’s previous work suggest that consumer substance abuse often makes an HHA’s job difficult, unnerving, and sometimes dangerous. This project will address behavioral health of older adults by organizing a group of stakeholders to improve the education of HHAs on recognizing substance abuse and communicating that information to appropriate family members, healthcare providers, or police.
Led by the Home Care Aide Foundation, which represents these workers statewide, this group will include HHAs, older adults who are in recovery from alcoholism or substance abuse, home care agency representatives, researchers, experts on brief intervention, substance abuse advocacy groups, and policy makers from state offices on elder affairs and mental health. The group will meet monthly to discuss the role of HHAs in recognizing, reporting, and briefly intervening on alcohol or substance abuse with their consumers. Review of existing models of brief intervention and training of other types of health workers will be reviewed, and translation of these evidence-based programs to the home care setting will be outlined for future comparative effectiveness research.