It is not unusual for seniors to take one or more medications for a number of illnesses or conditions. However, it is important to know that some medications can have a negative effect on cognitive function if used alone or in combination with other drugs, or may have other possible side effects. It is important to know what medications your loved one is taking and to review those medications periodically with a healthcare provider.
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether or not your loved one needs help with medication management:
- Are they having trouble taking all the medications prescribed by their doctor?
- Are they skipping medications?
- Are they refilling their medications regularly?
- Are they experiencing memory loss, side effects or worrisome symptoms which may be related to their medications?
- Can they afford their prescriptions? (doctors may be able to suggest generic or non-drug alternatives)
How Our Aides Can Help
Although our aides CANNOT administer or dispense medication, they can give your loved one medication reminders, hand them their pillbox and read medication labels as long as your loved one is alert and oriented TIMES FOUR. This means they must be alert and oriented to person, place, time and situation i.e. they know:
- What their name is?
- Where they are?
- What time it is?
- What just happened or is happening?
Knowing that our aides are there to remind your loved one to take their medications on time will give you greater peace of mind.
If you are worried that your loved one is not alert enough to take medications on their own and you are unable to pre-pour and administer medication for them, please contact our agency to discuss setting up medication management services.
Common Medications That Can Reduce Brain Function:
You may not be aware that some commonly used medications, like sleep aids or acid reflux medications, can also cause memory loss. If you notice that your loved one is losing memory, a review of their medications may be in order. Experts from the National Academy of Medicine say that managing medications is one of the three top ways to protect cognitive health in aging individuals.
Here are some of the medications that can create temporary or long-term memory loss:
These medications are often prescribed as sleep aids or to help with anxiety. Examples are Ativan, Valium, Restoril, Xanax, etc.
Non-benzodiazepine Prescription Sedatives
Also known as “Z-drugs.” These include: Zolpidem, Zaleplon, and Eszopiclone e.g. Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta. In addition to impairing memory, these drugs can also affect balance.
A recent study suggests that medications such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid, medically known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), may raise the risk of memory loss and dementia. Men are at a slightly higher risk than women; occasional users are at a much lower risk.
These drugs include over-the-counter sleeping aids and other prescription drugs. Some common anticholinergics to watch out for include:
- Antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl)
- “PM” versions of over-the-counter analgesics (e.g., Nyquil, Tylenol PM)
- Medications for overactive bladder (e.g., Ditropan, Detrol)
- Medications for vertigo, motion sickness, or nausea (e.g., Antivert, Scopace, and Phenergan)
- Medications for itching (e.g., Vistaril)
- Muscle relaxants (e.g., Flexaril)
- “Tricyclic” antidepressants which are now mainly prescribed for nerve pain (e.g., Elavil and Pamelor)
Antipsychotics and Mood-Stabilizers
These are usually prescribed to manage difficult behaviors related to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.