"Three Simple Questions"


An Invitation to Participate

Bonnie Lum (a Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) researcher) is interested in developing a few non-invasive questions for seniors about their alcohol use that can be used easily by service providers not working in addictions field.  The objective is to have a way to elicit reliable information from seniors on whether they are drinking and how much. Current close ended questions such as “Do you drink?” or even more open-ended ones like “How much do you drink?” will tend to get responses such as “No”, or “Oh, nothing, not much.” 

The purpose of this study is to find questions that will feel comfortable to the seniors and service providers alike, and elicit good information as a first step to begin meeting seniors’ needs. 

The project has several steps.  

- CAMH is currently recruiting agencies across Ontario primarily (though it may extend right across the country) to use the indicator tool in any standard assessment they use with seniors. CAMH will be asking them to send in their existing standard assessment instruments. Bonnie and Margaret will be looking to see whether agencies currently inquire about alcohol use, and if so, how. When a draft tool is developed, they will ask the agencies to add the brief tool into their existing assessment. 

 - CAMH will ask participating staff using the tool for their comments (i.e. their comfort, the perception of the client's comfort, etc.). The feedback and suggestions will be used modify the tool, if needed. 

- At a future point there will be an organized group discussion with community seniors considering what types of questions they believe will be effective among seniors. They will also be asked their opinions of the questions which participating staff believed were effective (do the two sets of perceptions match). This information will lead to the final draft of the tool, and validation of the tool. 

- Agencies across Canada would be encouraged to try the questions. A follow-up interview will determine if the tool was effective in identifying seniors (from different settings) who may have an alcohol problem. 



Any Ontario health or other service provider to seniors who is interested in participating this project can get in touch with Bonnie Lum, by email at:, and she will start sending you information about this. 




Page developed December 15, 2001.


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