The Wrong Mix of Medications Can Lead to Faulty Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Originally Posted August 23, 2016 

Memory loss, confusion and changes in personality or mood are some of the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.  However, these symptoms can also be caused by medications, supplements and vitamins, or a dangerous mix of these—often resulting in a false diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

The elderly are especially at risk of developing dementia-like symptoms because their bodies are not able to process medications as well as a younger person’s does. A lower metabolism, less lean body mass, less water in the body, and decreased kidney and liver functions make it harder to clean out toxins. As a result, drugs can accumulate in the body.

The list of drugs that can cause dementia-like symptoms is long and includes:

* antidepressants                                 * antihistamines

* anti-Parkinson drugs                       * anti-anxiety medications

* cardiovascular drugs                       * anticonvulsants

* corticosteroids                                   * narcotics

* sedatives                                              * statins

Also, seniors are usually prescribed more drugs as they get older. Polypharmacy is the term used to describe the use of five or more medications, and it is common in people over 65. This can easily happen when multiple doctors are prescribing drugs for different ailments. The more drugs they take, the greater their risk for a damaging drug reaction.

Using one pharmacist can help provide a gatekeeper, but it is vitally important to have a primary doctor oversee the person’s complete list of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Alcohol, or even taking someone else’s medication, can add to the problem.

In many cases, the cognitive symptoms vanish when medication is stopped. But don’t try to do this yourself. It is important to work with the primary doctor to determine which medications can be reduced, eliminated or replaced without adversely affecting the person’s overall well-being. Take the bottles and containers with you so the doctor can evaluate the dosages and expiration dates.

Additionally, more than 100 other conditions, from vitamin and hormone deficiencies to rare brain disorders to depression to urinary tract infections, can mimic Alzheimer’s disease. Some are readily treatable, so it is important to see a doctor when concerns about memory arise.

It’s important to know the person, be aware of medications being taken, and watch for changes in behavior. If a loved one has started exhibiting dementia-like symptoms, act quickly. Insist on an evaluation of their medications and eliminate other conditions. If dementia does exist after addressing these other health issues, it is critical to start treatment as soon as possible.

Some helpful Alzheimer and Dementia resources in the Cleveland area:

If you are helping a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, advanced legal planning is important because it allows the person with dementia to have his or her wishes for future care known and documented.  For assistance in developing a plan that addresses the long-term care needs of a loved one and other elder law needs, please feel free to contact the office of McFadden Bushnell.  We would be honored to assist you with this or other legal issues related to aging.

 McFadden Bushnell LLC offers a wide variety of elder law and estate planning services in the greater Cleveland and Northeast Ohio area, including Shaker Heights, University Heights, Cleveland Heights, Beachwood, Warrensville Heights and throughout the area.