Know the Difference Between Dementia and Medication Side Effects in Seniors

Medication side effects in seniors may be causing dementia-like symptoms.
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Disorientation. Confusion. Memory loss. While these are certainly major symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia, they could also be signs of medication side effects in seniors. Rather than immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, examine the following list of medications that may cause similar side effects in seniors.

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to cause short-term memory. The good news is that the problem is typically resolved once pain medications are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed for IBS, insomnia, urinary incontinence, depression, heart problems, vertigo, Parkinson’s, and other conditions, treatments with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain can create memory disturbance, confusion, agitation, and delirium, among other concerning health conditions. An example is tolteridine. 

Benzodiazepines

These prescription medications help treat both anxiety and insomnia, with sedative qualities that can also cause cognitive problems. Long-term usage of benzodiazepines can also be a risk factor for developing dementia. Examples include temazepam (Restoril) and lorazepam (Ativan).

Corticosteroids

Mood and cognitive fluctuations, delirium, and psychotic symptoms are just a few of the complications associated with corticosteroid use. Prednisone is one common example.

Chemotherapy Medications

Referred to as “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some people in the areas of memory, focus and attention, and executive functioning. These changes can continue even after ending chemo treatment.

Statins

Prescribed to reduce cholesterol, statins have a suspected connection to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are inconsistent results from various research studies, it’s important to be aware of the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also important to note that many prescription medications affect older adults differently than those who are younger. This may be due to some extent to the reduced efficiency in an older person’s liver and kidneys, in addition to interactions with other medications being taken and a reduced cognitive reserve in the brain. Complications can also be further exacerbated by alcohol use. 

Make sure to consult a physician before beginning, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you’re noticing in a senior loved one could be the reaction to a medication.

Lend a Hand Home Care’s expert team is also readily available to help seniors in a variety of ways – medication reminders to make sure meds are taken just as prescribed, picking up prescriptions, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and watching for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Contact us online or at (775) 322-8414 for help and support with senior care in Reno and the surrounding areas.