Why Every Nursing Home Should Host Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Meetings

Alcoholism is not just a problem of youth. According to an 8/17/09 report in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 14% of men and 3% of women age 65 and older admitted to binge drinking (5 drinks or more on one occasion within the last month). I frequently see residents with lifelong addiction problems in the nursing home, and often their sobriety began with their admission to the facility. Early sobriety, particularly when dictated by outside forces, can be very difficult, leaving residents vulnerable to the underlying depression they were self-medicating with alcohol. Many residents with long-term sobriety but no AA recovery have behavior problems that could be successfully addressed in the meetings, as do mentally ill residents with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse.

Hospitals, churches, and community centers around the country regularly host AA and other 12 Step meetings, but I’ve yet to hear of a nursing home that does. I think they all should, for the following reasons:

  • AA meetings establish a positive peer group for potentially difficult residents.
  • Residents take responsibility for their own behavior, reducing the need for staff monitoring.
  • Residents have an additional source of support from the group and from each other.
  • Residents have a way to connect with the outside world, reducing their sense of confinement.
  • For residents expected to be discharged, a connection to AA meetings and community members in the nursing home facilitates their transition back to the community.
  • Staff members have a resource to which they can direct their residents in need.
  • Staff members, some of whom may suffer from alcoholism themselves or in their families, become aware of a source of support, even if they don’t attend meetings in the facility.
  • The nursing home increases its visibility and potential referral base in the community.
  • There is no charge for AA meetings; in fact, the meetings often pay a small rent for the meeting space.
  • AA meetings are easy to establish. Just contact AA, let them know you have a meeting space to offer, and they will do the rest.
Find out more about Alcoholics Anonymous here.

9 thoughts on “Why Every Nursing Home Should Host Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Meetings”

  1. I'm glad you asked, Sue. I suspect some people are misinformed about AA meetings and worry that a bunch of hooligans will come into the facility. The reality is that bringing in a group of sober, community-conscious individuals dedicated to helping others with their common problem of alcoholism can be an essential resource to residents struggling with their sobriety and can reduce problems in the facility.

    I really feel for people trying to remain sober in nursing homes, often after a lifetime of drinking, coping with all the losses and stresses of illness and nursing home life. I try to do what I can, but I'm just one woman with an AA Big Book. It would be so much better if I could send them downstairs to meet with their fellow alcoholics once or twice a week.

  2. Mary, I suppose the facility could hire a van to take a group of residents to meetings in the community on a regular basis, but it would be a lot easier and better for community relations to bring the community to the nursing home.

  3. I am one of many who volunteer to answer phones at our area AA chapters 24/7 phones and just received a call from a nursing home asking to arrange a meeting to be brought in. I had never thought of it, but it IS a wonderful idea. I started searching and came across this while waiting for our office manager to come in today. I look forward to following up with this call.

    • Bridget, I’m so glad to hear of a nursing home calling AA to arrange an on-site meeting. How great for them to have their call met by a volunteer who’s enthusiastic and supportive of the idea. I hope the meeting flourishes.

  4. A friend is 52 years old. Besides being an alcoholic she has cancer, depression and other medical issues. After her father forced her out of his house, she became homeless and physically ill. She went to a hospital Er and told them she needed Alcoholic inpatient Rehab. After she was treated for her medical issues, the hospital send her to a Nursing home for recovery and because she was homeless. She asked the hospital to find her low income housing but they said that they didn’t do that and then the Nursing Home told her that they also don’t find low income housing . After having 2 surgeries for gall stones and after receiving 20 rounds of radiation for cancer, she remains trapped in this Nursing home without a transition Plan to go back to the community she knows and without any alcohol recovery program in place. The nursing Home is in the Bronx , New York. She is on SSI but since being in the Nursing home her SSI was lowered to a nominal amount of $30. per month. Who can help her get Alcohol Recovery or get her to meetings while she is in this nursing home and who can get her Out of there into low income housing ? She doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life in a Nursing Home. Can someone please give us some helpful suggestions, Please. Thank you again

    • Thanks for your comment. I have a few thoughts on how to get help. Regarding AA meetings, there are tons of online meetings now so your friend should be able to get recovery support online while at the facility. Perhaps the recreation director can help her find and attend them if she needs physical assistance or a device to use. Meetings are listed at aa.org. In terms of getting out of the nursing home, it can be difficult at present to find housing that offers simultaneous support for physical, mental health, and substance abuse problems because as a society we typically treat these in separate systems. The social work department might be able to assist with this, or perhaps the Ombudsman assigned to the facility, or the local Department for the Aging might have resources or perhaps she could find a case worker through them.


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