More adults seeking support for alcoholic parents

Family photo of Amelia and her fatherImage copyright FAMILY HANDOUT
Image caption Amelia Carr with her father whose alcoholism became particularly serious when she was five

The number of adults seeking help to cope with an alcoholic parent has tripled over five years, according to a leading charity.

The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics took more than 23,000 calls or messages last year from over 18s, compared to 6,400 in 2013.

Experts say more funding to support families and friends would help more people with alcoholic parents.

The Department of Health said it was investing £6m to tackle the issue.

‘My homeless dad’

Image copyright FAMILY HANDOUT
Image caption Amelia’s father’s drinking carried on until his death two years ago

Amelia and Joe Carr, from Newcastle, grew up with an alcoholic father.

His drinking became very serious when Joe was 13 and Amelia was five. It continued up until his death two years ago. Towards the end of his life he was sleeping rough.

“It was the thing I’d been dreading seeing, my own dad homeless on the street,” Joe says.

“I found him inebriated, as he always was, and dirty; sat in a doorway with a bottle. When I saw the state he was in all my anger evaporated and was replaced instead with pity.”

Children whose parents drink too much are said to be four times more likely to become dependent drinkers themselves.

Image copyright FAMILY HANDOUT
Image caption Joe and Amelia now

Joe developed an issue with alcohol as an adult but he gave up completely when he became a father and is now teetotal. However, his ability to quit led to a new, very painful thought.

“I can’t help but think if I could do that for my children why couldn’t he?” he says.

Joe remembers the happy times before his father’s issues with alcohol started. But Amelia, eight years his junior, only remembers her father drinking. When he died she says in some ways she felt relieved.

“Everyone around me was grieving for the man he was,” she says, “but I just couldn’t do that – I felt so guilty and confused.”

The drug and alcohol charity Addaction says approximately one in three older adults with an alcohol problem first develop it later in life.

A spokesman told 5 Live Investigates they would like to see more support and ease of access to services for people over the age of 50 with alcohol misuse issues.

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Media captionAuthor Kate Tojeiro on life with an alcoholic father

The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) supports those who have lived through childhood with their parent’s alcohol problems. They also offer help to people whose parent’s issues emerged in later life.

Stephanie Page, a helpline supervisor at the the charity, said: “The feelings of guilt have been born out of the anger and resentment towards their parent but they still love them so they feel guilty about feeling that sort of way towards them.”

She also said that people whose parents began drinking later tend to face a different set of challenges.

“The parent may have retired and is lonely; they may have had issues adjusting to retirement. The adult child of the alcoholic often finds that really difficult because they haven’t seen this side of them before and they may not know what to do.

“It can be really surreal seeing this side to your parent.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it can be “incredibly damaging for a young person to grow up with an alcoholic parent and can lead to lifelong harm”.

“We are investing £6m to support children of dependent parents, and services including alcohol treatment and mental health services are available for people who are suffering the impact of parental drinking as adults.”

The spokesman said every person admitted to hospital showing signs of alcohol dependence in the 25% worst affected parts of the country will be offered “targeted help to stop”.

You can hear 5 Live Investigates at 11:00 GMT on Sunday 31 March and on BBC Sounds.

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