Is It Dementia or Medication Side Effects?

medication side effect
Often, medication side effects and the symptoms of dementia can be similar.

Disorientation. Confusion. Memory loss. While these are definitely hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia, they can also come about from medication side effects. Before automatically assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, examine the following list of prescribed medicines which can cause similar adverse effects.

Pain Medications

Opioids specifically are reported to affect short-term memory. However, the problem is usually resolved once pain medicines are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed by doctors to treat IBS, insomnia, bladder control problems, depression, heart disease, Parkinson’s, vertigo, and other conditions, prescription drugs with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain can cause memory disturbance, agitation, confusion, and delirium, among other significant health issues. An example is tolterodine.


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


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

Chemo Medications

Commonly called “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, attention and focus, and executive functioning. These changes may persist, even after finishing chemo treatment.


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

It’s also important to keep in mind that many prescription medications impact older adults differently than those who are younger. This may be due in part to the reduced efficiency in an older person’s kidneys and liver, as well as interactions with other medications being taken, and a decreased cognitive reserve in the brain. Alcohol use can further exacerbate complications.

Be sure to speak with the doctor before beginning, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you are observing in a senior could be the reaction to a medicine.

JFS Care, experts in dementia home care in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, is also on hand to help seniors in a variety of ways – medication reminders to ensure meds are taken just as prescribed, transportation to doctors’ appointments, picking up prescriptions, and keeping an eye out for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Reach out to us at 213-383-2273 for support any time.