Medications Can Create Dementia Symptoms in Seniors

Doctor looking at a chart

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A woman in her 60’s had dementia symptoms including poor memory, incoherence, and lack of focus. However, her doctor thought something else may be going on rather than dementia. This woman was taking “Benadryl for seasonal allergies, another antihistamine for itching, Seroquel for mood fluctuations, as well as medications for urinary incontinence and gastrointestinal upset.” Her doctor decided to switch out these medications with alternative ones and within 6 months she seemed to recover completely.


Around 25% of seniors take anticholinergic drugs that are used to treat allergies, insomnia, leaky bladders, diarrhea, among other ailments. However, these same seniors are more susceptible to negative reactions when they take these anticholinergic drugs. These drugs target a chemical in the body that helps with memory and concentration which, in turn, can present themselves as dementia symptoms.


Some medications for seniors to watch out for are imipramine, antihistamines, antipsychotics, antispasmodics, and drugs for urinary incontinence. Doctors have a few tips for older members of the community when looking at medications: don’t assume that if a drug is over the counter that it’s safe for your brain, talk with your own doctor about the risks and benefits of going on an anticholinergic drug and don’t try stopping these drugs on your own.