Nursing Home Resident Support: Twelve-Step Telephone Meetings

 The saying in 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is that alcoholism is a three-fold disease: physical, mental, and spiritual.  The only-half-kidding joke is that alcoholism is a three-fold disease: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  The holidays can be a particularly stressful time for nursing home residents as their celebrations have often changed significantly from those in the past.  The loss of family members, the inability to get around independently, and the lack of opportunity and funds to shop for gifts can take their toll on residents who may have had trouble with the holidays even before they entered the nursing home.

In case you haven’t been persuaded by my previous arguments for holding AA meetings in nursing homes (or in case you’ve been persuaded but your administration hasn’t) there are also telephone meetings available to residents for the cost of a phone call.  Callers can listen in, or share their story if they wish, in an anonymous environment.  Below are links to the telephone meeting lists of several 12-Step programs.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Al-Anon (for family and friends of alcoholics)
Overeaters Anonymous
Nicotine Anonymous

3 thoughts on “Nursing Home Resident Support: Twelve-Step Telephone Meetings”

  1. Dr. El,

    Optimally, it would be best to have an actual meeting in a nursing home, but I like your alternative suggestion, to join a phone in AA meeting. As a recreation director, unless a resident has a formal diagnosis of ETOH abuse, I rarely learn if a resident is an alcoholic, recovered alcoholic etc. Have you recommended this avenue to your patients in LTC? If so, do your patients find this a satisfactory substitute? I was wondering whether it may be too much of a challenge for anyone with any degree of cognitive impairment.

  2. To be honest, Sue, I just thought of this idea, so I haven't had the opportunity to try it with my residents. I think it would be a challenge for cognitively impaired residents unless they were previously familiar with 12-Step programs, because there are no visual cues, but that it would be helpful for intact residents and for those with 12-Step experience. I once knew a man with years of sobriety in AA who was very impaired physically and cognitively, but he could recite the AA preamble by heart, winning the admiration of the other residents.


Leave a Comment