Medications and Memory

As we and the ones we care for get older it’s not unusual that we forget things from time to time.  Our first instinct is to wonder if it’s a sign of dementia.  A little voice in the back of our heads starts saying the dreaded “A Word”— Alzheimer’s.   Before we panic, it’s important to remind ourselves that occasional memory lapses are perfectly normal.  Our brains are constantly working to process all the information our senses transmit. They spend all their time storing and retrieving this information as we need it. 

Frequent or more prolonged memory loss might be caused by something we and our older loved ones do every day — take medications.  The statistics are very clear.  More than 90% of older Americans take some sort of medication on a daily basis.  That’s pretty much everyone.  Over 80% take a prescription drug daily.    As we get older, the number of medications taken increases.  In the over 65 age group, seniors take  four to five prescriptions a day and at least two over-the- counter drugs with them.  This doesn’t even take into account any vitamins or herbal supplements that seniors may take.  As we and our loved ones age, it’s pretty typical to develop a number of chronic illnesses like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.  Each of these conditions brings with them their own set of prescribed drugs so the older we get, the more medication we are likely to be consuming.  As we age, our bodies don’t process these medications as well as they used to.  The liver doesn’t break them down as well as it should and the kidneys aren’t that good at excreting them.  In addition, it’s been shown that sleeping pills, antihistamines, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, some incontinence drugs and some heartburn drugs have memory loss as an unpleasant side effect.  You now have the perfect storm —– increased numbers of drugs combined with less processing efficiency.   Throw in some dosing mistakes and you’re all set for some memory loss.

There are things you can do to make sure your medication routine isn’t the cause of your memory problems.  First and foremost, make a list of everything you take—even vitamins and herbal supplements.  Be sure to take this list to your doctor visits (all of them) and be clear with the doctor that you are using all of these in combination.  If you have multiple physicians, let them all know what you are taking so they can prescribe accordingly.  Next, select only one pharmacy to use and take the list there.  Ask the pharmacist to do a database analysis of your list.  This can identify any conflicts among the drugs and warn you of possible side effects.  Finally, watch for any unusual symptoms when you start a new medication.  Maybe your memory issues stem from your medications and best of all, maybe you can do something about it!  Visit us at




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Filed under companionship, Home Care, Senior Care, Trillium HomeCare, Uncategorized

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