Korsakoff Syndrome, Early Onset Dementia Through Alcohol


I need your advice and hope that you have an answer, (no pressure). My husband and I have an old friend who has Korsakoff Syndrome, early onset dementia through alcohol.

He has had two short Clinic detoxes in the past 3 or 4 years and a long residential rehab this year, and has been sober since April after derailing prior. He was having several weekly one on one therapy and analysis sessions, plus group sessions, during the rehab – but the facility was suspect, both financially and professionally.

He used to live alone but now lives with 24 hour housekeepers/carers, who we call his PA’s. Short-term memory is very impacted and he doesn’t, or can’t, really participate in the various social activities available. When he came out of the rehab facility, he was feeling strong and determined (or so he said) about not drinking again. He is a former specialized wine guide and was a real fundi, I might add.

He is now grappling with the reality of his life and seriously thinking about drinking wine again. We don’t know any therapist, although we hope to make an arrangement through his psychiatrist, who will hopefully be seeing him early October.

I was wondering whether you had any ideas of how we can help him with some professional conversation to keep him on the right path? I have told him about my sobriety, but, being an old friend, I am possibly too close to him for him to take real notice of what I am saying. His memory issues bring an added facet to it.’


Dear J

Your friend is very lucky to have you as a friend, that already is wonderful. It is very encouraging that he has been off alcohol since April. We all know it is imperative that he stays off it. I am sure he is getting adequate medical treatment, with B vitamins, and treating any underlying mood disorders.
The socialization and making new friends in a new environment is difficult for all of us, let alone when you are battling this demon. There is no doubt that connecting with others is what ultimately makes life have meaning. I have two suggestions that are non-medical and that might be sustainable. The routine and stability are very important, also any intervention must be sustainable, please keep it in mind. I make these suggestions with not much knowledge regarding the sustainability.
I would suggest that you get an Occupational therapist involved who is involved with rehab around dementia. There are private facilities, but the facilities at the academic hospitals, as well as the academic psychiatric hospital, will be great. They evaluate your lifestyle and help with tasks for daily living as well as physical activities … crafts etc. They are an enormous value-add.
The other suggestion is a companion animal. This will need to fit in with any rules of where he lives. There is so much data to support the improvement in quality of life. It gives us meaning, relieves boredom and it gives us opportunity to be compassionate.
My best wishes to you and your friend.

The 11 Year Fact

Did you know that the average dependent drinker will struggle alone for 11 years before reaching out for help?

Don’t wait for 11 years – join Tribe Sober today!