Is It Dementia or Medication Side Effects in Seniors?

Pain Medications

Opioids specifically are reported to impact short-term memory. However the problem is commonly resolved once pain medications are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

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


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


Mood and cognitive changes, delirium, and psychotic symptoms are just some of the complications associated with corticosteroid use. One of the most common examples is prednisone.

Chemo Medications

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


Statins, prescribed to lower cholesterol, have a suspected link to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are conflicting results from a variety of scientific studies, it’s important to be familiar with the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also important to remember that many medications affect seniors differently than those who are younger. This is 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. 

Make sure to speak with the doctor prior to starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you are witnessing in a senior could be the result of medication side effects in a senior you love.

Seniorcorp is also on hand to help seniors in a variety of ways – medication reminders to make sure 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. Contact us online or at (757) 640-0557 for support with home care services in Virginia Beach, VA and the surrounding areas.