OBJECTIVE: Treatment-unresponsive alcoholics in New Zealand who are
unable to care for themselves tend to be hospitalized for lengthy periods
of time. The author examined the effect of adding financial management to
the therapeutic management of such patients. The null hypothesis was that
this would have no effect on the duration of alcohol-related
hospitalization. METHOD: All 61 alcoholic patients registered with an
alcohol outpatient clinic who received financial management over a period
of 6 years were included in the study. Their alcohol-related disabilities
were so severe that they had resulted or were likely to result in lengthy
or frequent periods of hospitalization. The financial management involved
putting each patient's income into a checking account for which a budget
advisory officer was cosignatory for withdrawals. The advisor saw to it
that patients' basic living requirements were being met and that
expenditure on alcohol was not having a detrimental effect. Participation
was voluntary for voluntary patients and involuntary for committed
patients. The durations of each patient's alcohol-related hospitalizations
were compared for two equal periods of time before and after financial
management was instituted. RESULTS: The null hypothesis was not supported.
The duration of alcohol-related hospitalizations after financial management
was instituted was 86% less than it was before such management.
CONCLUSIONS: For the patient who is struggling in the face of excessive
drinking to cope with the tasks of daily living, including the provision of
adequate shelter and nutrition, the benefits of adding financial management
to other therapeutic strategies should be considered.