September 16, 2021 by Dean Bellefeuille


Disorientation. Confusion. Memory loss. While these are certainly hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia, they could also come about from taking particular medications. Rather than immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, review the following list of medications that may cause similar effects that can be mistaken for dementia symptoms.

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to impact short-term memory. The good news is that the issue is commonly remedied once pain medicines are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed by doctors to treat IBS, insomnia, urinary incontinence, depression, heart problems, vertigo, Parkinson’s, along with other conditions, drugs with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain can cause memory disturbance, agitation, confusion, and delirium, among other serious health problems. An example is tolteridine.


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


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

Chemotherapy Medications

Commonly called “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, focus and attention, and executive functioning. These changes might be long-lasting, even after ending 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 scientific studies, it’s vital to be aware of the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also essential to understand that many medications affect seniors differently than those who are younger. This is due in part to the decreased efficiency in an older person’s liver and kidneys, 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 talk to the doctor before starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you’re noticing in a senior could be dementia symptoms or the result of a prescription.

If you need help from a home care company in Syracuse, NY, At Home Independent Living is also readily available to help older adults in many ways – medication reminders to make sure meds are taken just as prescribed, picking up prescriptions, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and keeping an eye out for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Contact us  online or at 315-579-4663 for help and support any time.