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Medication side effects can sometimes be very similar to common dementia symptoms.

Disorientation. Confusion. Memory loss. While these are definitely hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia, they may also come about as a result of medication side effects. Rather than immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, review the following list of medications which can cause similar side effects.

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to impact short-term memory. The good news is that the issue is usually alleviated once pain remedies are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed by doctors for IBS, insomnia, urinary incontinence, depression, heart disease, vertigo, Parkinson’s, as well as other conditions, treatments with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain may cause memory disturbance, confusion, agitation, and delirium, among other serious health problems. An example is tolterodine.


These medications help treat both anxiety and insomnia, with sedative qualities which 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).


Mood and cognitive changes, psychotic symptoms, and delirium are just a few of the complications related to corticosteroid use. Prednisone is one common example.

Chemotherapy Medications

Known as “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, attention and focus, and executive functioning. These changes might be long-lasting, even after stopping chemo treatment.


Statins, prescribed to lower cholesterol, have a suspected connection to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are conflicting results from a variety of studies, it is crucial to know about the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also important to keep in mind that many medications impact seniors differently than those who are younger. This may be due to some extent to the decreased 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 speak with the physician before starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you’re witnessing in a senior might be the result of a medication.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care  is also readily available to assist seniors in many ways – medication reminders to ensure meds are taken just as prescribed, transportation to doctors’ appointments, picking up prescriptions, and watching for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Reach out to us online or call us at (269) 763-5350  to learn more about our trusted home and dementia care in Portage, MI and surrounding communities. Or contact us at the office location nearest you: (269) 373-5444 in Kalamazoo; (269) 849-9252 in St. Joseph; or (269) 963-9888 in Battle Creek.

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