Medications Can Mimic Dementia

Posted by Deborah Bier, PhD on December 28, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Did you know many common medications can mimic dementia in older adults? Or, that these medications can make pre-existing symptoms worse in someone who has dementia? These medications include both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that could be in your loved one’s medicine cabinet.Medications Can Mimic Dementia - blog.jpg

As we age, drugs can impact us differently than when we were younger. The antihistamine that has been your loved one’s mainstay for years could potentially worsen the memory problems they have due to Alzheimer’s. Or, perhaps an anti-seizure medication used for decades has started to cause confusion in a person who does not have dementia. Any type of dementia-like symptom in an older adult could be a side effect of medications.

While any medication can impact a few individuals poorly, regardless of age or dementia status, there are numerous common ones that are potentially problematic for older adults and their brains. These drugs, both prescription and OTC, should be well-known to the prescriber as well as your pharmacist.

Always ask, “Is this medication okay for an older adult?” when receiving a new prescription or buying an OTC medication. You should ask the same question about drugs already on hand. Make an appointment with your loved one’s pharmacist to review all current medications. This is typically a free service.

Some older people do just fine with these medications, so the idea isn’t to “break” something that’s working. However, any time there is cognitive impairment, your loved one’s physician must explore if medications are the cause of the impairment or make it worse. This medication review is an integral step in diagnosing dementia. Be sure to advocate for this review as part of the diagnostic process.

Talk with your loved one’s doctor about any concerns related to medications or dementia symptoms. Never discontinue any medication without consultation and guidance from the prescriber.

To learn more about this topic, watch our video: Medications That Mimic Dementia


Topics: Aging, Alzheimer's and Dementia, Healthy Living

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