Some senior citizens may often have trouble concentrating or remembering details, issues that are usually attributed to "old age." However, a recent study found that seniors who take medications to treat problems such as anxiety or insomnia may be experiencing forgetfulness as a side effect of their prescription treatments, CBC News reports.
Researchers reviewed more than 160 studies on medications likely to affect memory and found that prescription treatments could be the cause of general forgetfulness in seniors. Dozens of reports pointed to the fact that benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety and insomnia, consistently result in cognitive impairments. Higher doses of such drugs were also shown to have more severe effects, with similar results found in studies of antidepressants and antihistamines.
Canada's current senior citizen population, ages 65 and older, is estimated to be more than 5 million people, according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. That figure is expected to double within the next 25 years, as the senior segment is the fastest-growing age group in the nation. By the year 2051, nearly one quarter of Canadians are expected to be over the age of 65.
This expanding age group has serious repercussions on many industries within the country, including the drug industry. Studies suggest that about 90 per cent of seniors take at least one prescription medication, with nearly half taking five or more, according to CBC News. As more individuals seek treatment for various ailments, these numbers will continue to rise and more citizens may find themselves experiencing cognitive issues.
"There is a consistent body of evidence suggesting that drug-induced mild cognitive impairment can occur with episodic use of medications for insomnia, anxiety or allergy symptoms," the study's authors wrote in the Drugs & Aging journal, CBC News reports. "Combined amnestic and non-amnestic deficits occur with the use of benzodiazepine agents and may partially underlie older adults' frequent complaints of forgetfulness."
As people get older and see their mental capacity begin to waver, healthcare workers will be needed to care for them and monitor medications. Practical nurses are responsible for much of the day-to-day care for the elderly, often in long-term settings or group homes. Considering the effects that prescriptions may have on these patients is an important part of a nurse's role, and is something students would learn when furthering their education.