Senior medication side effects can sometimes bring on symptoms similar to dementia.

Confusion. Disorientation. Memory loss. While these are certainly hallmark warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia, they can also arise from taking particular medications. Rather than automatically assuming a diagnosis of dementia, examine the following list of prescriptions to identify potential senior medication side effects.

Pain Medications

Opioids specifically are reported to impact short-term memory. The good news is that the issue is typically resolved once pain medications are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

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


These prescription medications help treat both anxiety and insomnia, with sedative qualities which can 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

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


Prescribed to reduce cholesterol, statins, have a suspected connection to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are conflicting results from various studies, it’s important to know about the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that many medications affect older adults differently than those who are younger. This may be due to some extent to the reduced efficiency in an older person’s kidneys and liver, in addition to 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 physician before beginning, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you’re observing in a loved one might be the result of senior medication side effects.

Atlanta Home Care Partners is also readily available to assist older adults in many ways – medication reminders to make sure meds are taken just as prescribed, picking up prescriptions, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and watching for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Reach out to us online or at (404) 228-0103 for help and support with home care services in Decatur and the surrounding areas.