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K5. Dr Trish Hafford Letchfield – Falling Down: Older people and problematic substance use

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Falling down: Older people and problematic
substance use


There is growing evidence of the need for better identification
and interventions for people with problematic alcohol use
in later life. The issues arising from older people’s unique
needs and circumstances call for greater attention to the lack
of tailored service provision and preventative approaches,
challenges in managing care in situations of enormous
complexity and not least the lack of systematic training of
care professionals and development of coherent guidance,
resources and tools to support their practice.
This presentation shares findings from our research about
what we have learned that might help to shift ageist cultures
in care services and in developing a more coherent model
of policy, practice and education in the field of ageing and
problematic substance use. We pay particular attention to
the social work and social care workforce who are key players
in in the prevention of alcohol-related harm, harm reduction
and in the provision of personal care, safeguarding and other
community based services to older people.
I will draw on three key sources to illustrate some of the
challenges and benefits of learning to learn together to
promote better integration and tailored support. These
include 1) findings from focus groups with 37 practitioners in
England working directly with older people in the community;
2) Key themes from a systematic review of community based
interventions with older people with problematic substance
use and 3) an snapshot from the evaluation of the views
and perspectives of 795 active learners who attended our
international virtual learning programme ‘Falling Down’ –
problematic substance use in later life in 2018-19. Data from
these sources will be synthesised to highlight the urgent need
for increasing awareness and providing additive approaches
in the day-to-day delivery of care services. There is also a need
for more transformative practice that challenges ageism,
increases collaboration and not least, engages with the voices
of older people themselves.


Dr Trish Hafford-Letchfield, EdD; MA, BA, CLTHE, PG Cert,

Dr Trish Hafford-Letchfield is a qualified nurse and social
worker with 18 years practice experience in social work in
the UK. Trish has held many roles in relation to Third Sector
governance. Her research interests lie in the experiences of
ageing in marginalised communities and most of her research
is applied and co-produced with people with lived experience.
Prior to joining the University of Strathclyde Glasgow as
Professor of Social Work, Trish was Professor of Social Care at
Middlesex University, London.
Her doctorate studies were in educational gerontology
exploring the role of lifelong learning in care services. Trish
is an advocate for the rights of LGBT+ communities and
was founder member of the international LGBTQI social
work network. In relation to learning and teaching, she has
published 18 key textbooks covering a range of topics on
leadership, management, organisational development,
feminism, sexual and gender identities, values and ethics,
social work supervision. She has also published widely in other
areas such as the use of the arts in professional education,
parenting, ageing and disability.

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Trish Hafford-Letchfield
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