Commonly prescribed medications that are well-known to cause a number of short-term unwanted effects, such as memory loss and confusion, are now at the center of new research linking some of the stronger anticholinergic drugs to a substantially increased risk for dementia. These types of medications are commonly prescribed for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression, and overactive bladder.
The study included two groups of seniors: 59,000 patients with dementia, and 225,000 without. About 57% of those with dementia, and 51% without, were prescribed one or more (up to six) strong anticholinergic medicines. Taking into account other known dementia risk factors, the results were a surprising 50% increased risk of dementia in persons who were taking strong anticholinergics every day for three or more years, with the greatest risk to those who received a dementia diagnosis before age 80.
It’s necessary to note that there was no correlation found between dementia and other forms of anticholinergics (for example, antihistamines such as Benadryl and GI medications).
While these findings do not prove anticholinergics as an underlying cause for dementia, at the very least, “This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” stated Tom Dening, study co-author and head of Nottingham’s Center for Dementia. Dening also emphasized that people currently prescribed these medicines should not cease taking them abruptly, which could cause even more harm.
The recommendation is for anybody concerned about this prospective link to speak with his or her doctors to compare the benefits against any possible risks, and to explore alternative means of treatment when possible. For example, individuals taking medications for assistance with sleeping – something that has become more and more common among the elderly – can take into consideration behavioral changes and a far more therapeutic strategy as an alternative to sleep medications.
Regardless of which prescriptions a senior loved one takes, proper medication management is crucial – easier said than done with many seniors taking multiple medications in several doses at varying times throughout the day. A medication reminder, provided by CareWorks Health Services, is an ideal solution to ensure that older adults take the right medications at the right time – every time.
Our specially-trained and knowledgeable dementia care team is also readily available to provide creative, caring, effective strategies to help minimize the difficult components of disease management, contributing to an increased quality of life for both seniors and their loved ones. Contact CareWorks Health Services at (949) 859-4700 for additional information about options for home care in Mission Viejo and throughout Orange County.