What is Korsakoff Syndrome

In its simplest terms korsakoff syndrome is a memory disorder which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1/thiamine, an important brain nutrient (Alcohol Concern 2001).

For the individuals in this report the condition was caused by excessive alcohol abuse. In addition to the direct symptomatology of the condition, the years of problem drinking is likely to have negatively affected all elements of the lives of people with korsakoff syndrome i.e. limited support networks, financial/ budgeting problems and unhealthy lifestyle (diet and sleep).

In its simplest terms korsakoff syndrome is a memory disorder which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1/thiamine, an important brain nutrient (Alcohol Concern 2001). For the individuals in this report the condition was caused by excessive alcohol abuse. In addition to the direct symptomatology of the condition, the years of problem drinking is likely to have negatively affected all elements of the lives of people with korsakoff syndrome i.e. limited support networks, financial/ budgeting problems and unhealthy lifestyle (diet and sleep).

There is an ever increasing need to develop an understanding and awareness of specialised korsakoff residential provision, as rates of Alcohol Related Brain Damage.

Abstinence and Appropriate Intervention.

Evidence has shown that further brain damage can be halted if a person completely abstains from alcohol use, or at least the progress of korsakoff syndrome can be minimised, if the person reduces their alcohol intake and adopts a healthy diet with vitamin B1/thiamine supplements (Godfrey et al. 1985, Alzheimer’s Society 2003). Experts in the field report that the brain can learn to develop new ways of processing information and can recover some cognitive functioning (Wilson 2002, Oscar-Berman et al. 1997). The best outcomes have been shown in those people who have been diagnosed quickly and who have been able to access appropriate early intervention (Smith & Hillman 1999).  Unfortunately, early diagnosis and appropriate early interventions are the exception rather than the norm.

Historically inappropriate placements/support

There seems to be a historical pattern of professional care/support for people with korsakoff syndrome which comes from two polar extremes- ‘too much support’ which is the case in institutional settings, such as long stay hospitals or nursing homes or ‘too little support’ which is likely for people living on the streets or living alone in the community.

Mountbatton Care Services can bridge this gap, by providing supported living accommodation which will be korsakoff specific, person centred and needs led.

The major reason for establishing a korsakoff supported living model was to provide an alternative accommodation option for people with korsakoff syndrome. We also aimed to optimise the possibility of people regaining parts of their life which were negatively affected by their alcoholism and resulting korsakoff syndrome i.e. relearning skills, regaining interests, rekindling relationships, optimising memory ability and promoting alcohol abstinence.

Staff Training

Mountbatton care Services provides a comprehensive internal training programme for staff. External training is also made available to staff, if it is deemed to increase the quality of support for the service user. Each new staff member must carry out a 5 day mandatory company induction programme which includes health and safety, medication administration and personnel policy and procedures. Skill based training in intervention techniques, such as calming and diffusing and breakaway are also made available. Staff members have also received specific awareness raising training in korsakoff syndrome and alcohol abuse. In addition, staff are trained in other areas depending on the needs of the individual tenants i.e. diabetes training and epilepsy training.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Diagnosed with korsakoff syndrome 1
  • Completed a full alcohol detoxification or natural detoxification 2
  • Shows a desire to stay off alcohol
  • Accepts the Mountbatton Care Services tenancy agreement
  • Presents with low risk of harm to self and others
  • Referred via a Health Professional (Social Worker, CPN, Consultant Psychiatrist)