Know Your Dementia Meds!


Know Your Dementia Meds!

Know Your Dementia Meds!

When it comes to dementia, mis-medication and over-medication can be big problems. The DLG team works to minimize medications, and we try to identify medications that may be causing problematic symptoms.

Of course, this is not to say that elders living with dementia shouldn’t be medicated. Some drugs may help delay or decrease the progression of dementia, and others may relieve some of the behavioral symptoms of dementia that worsen overall quality-of-life.

For more information of dementia medications, including the ones listed below, check out Dr Liz’s book:

Living in the Moment: A Guide to Overcoming Challenges and Finding Moments of Joy in Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias.


Common Medications Used for Treating Dementia:



From Dr Liz:

“Treating the behavioral symptoms of dementia remains controversial…this has resulted in the common prescription of antianxiety drugs like [Ativan] for people with dementia. While tranquilizers like these may yield short-term results…they’re highly addictive. If used for more than a few days in elders with dementia, the withdrawal syndrome often leads to delirium or worse behavior in elders.”



“Haloperidol (Haldol), an older medication, may alleviate delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia, but it causes [negative] symptoms in 30 percent of those treated…also restlessness, walking problems, and general stiffness. This medication should also be avoided in patients with Parkinson’s disease; it is dangerous in that the person can become immobile…effects often linger even after the drug is discontinued.”



“Some medical professionals believe that if a patient doesn’t complain about pain, there is no pain. Unfortunately, patients with dementia may not be able to identify the source of their distress. When those with dementia hurt, they may act out or they may become withdrawn. It is a mistake to treat agitation from pain (such as distressing arthritis or musculoskeletal pain) with a sedative…rather than with pain-control measures…”



“If used for more than a few days in elders with dementia…[drugs like Xanax] can remove inhibitions, cause paranoia, and increase confusion and falls…they often cause more problems than they solve. These drugs start to produce more agitation, poor sleep, or confusion. That leads to an increased dose…which increases the withdrawal symptoms, which leads to another increased dose. It becomes a vicious cycle.”


IMPORTANT: This information is meant to be used only for general guidance, and does not constitute medical advice. If you have questions about any medication, you should consult your doctor.