They’re already understood to result in a number of short-term side effects, such as memory issues and confusion, but new research links several of the stronger anticholinergic drugs (such as those prescribed for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression, and overactive bladder) as potential risk factors for dementia.
The research involved two groups of seniors: 59,000 patients with dementia, and 225,000 without. Approximately 57% of those with dementia, and 51% without, were given a minimum of one (and up to six) strong anticholinergic medicines. Looking at other known risk factors for dementia, the outcomes were an astounding 50% greater chance of dementia in people who were taking strong anticholinergics every day for three or more years, with the largest risk to men and women who received a dementia diagnosis before age 80.
It’s essential to note that there was no correlation discovered between dementia and other forms of anticholinergics (for example, antihistamines like Benadryl and GI medications).
While these findings do not prove anticholinergics as an underlying cause for dementia, at the minimum, “This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” according to Tom Dening, study co-author and head of Nottingham’s Center for Dementia. Dening also stressed that people currently prescribed these medications should not cease taking them suddenly, which could cause additional harm.
The suggestion is for any person concerned about this possible link to speak with his or her doctors to weigh the advantages against any potential risks, and to look into alternative means of treatment when possible. For example, individuals taking medications for assistance with sleeping – something that has become increasingly widespread in older adults – can consider behavioral changes and a more therapeutic approach over insomnia medications.
And no matter what the prescriptions a senior takes, proper medication management is essential – easier said than done with many older adults taking multiple medications in a variety of doses at different points during the day. JFS Care’s medication reminder services are ideal to be sure that older adults take the correct medications at the correct time – each time.
Our highly trained and knowledgeable dementia care team is also readily available to provide unique, caring, effective care strategies to help minimize the difficult components of the disease, ultimately causing a higher quality of life both for seniors and their loved ones. Reach out to JFS Care, the home health agency Los Angeles, CA families trust the most, at (213) 383-2273 any time for more information. Visit our Service Area page for a full list of locations we serve.