As we get older, our brains change. Many of us struggle to remember names of actors or authors we could once pull up in a second. Sometimes we get confused about what year events happened, or how old our adult children are now. The perfect word that used to come to mind so easily takes minutes or days to swim up out of the depths of our minds. The keys never seem to be where we thought we left them.
It’s difficult to know how much of this is due to the normal aging process and what are the signs of something more serious. Many fear that common difficulties are signals of incipient Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, while others dismiss serious mental impairment as nothing more than getting older. With so little known about the senior brain and the mechanisms of dementia, many older adults are left worried, depressed, or confused as to what is happening to them and what to expect in their future.
A new book from Dr. Harry Haroutunian, Not As Prescribed: Recognizing and Facing Alcohol and Drug Misuse in Older Adults, makes the case that in many instances symptoms of aging such as memory loss, falling, or dry mouth, are actually symptoms of a bad reaction to a drug or harmful drug combinations. In particular, Dr. Haroutunian asserts that many memory issues are likely due to drug side effects.
Dr. Haroutunian recommends an annual drug audit for older adults, especially those taking multiple medications prescribed by different doctors, in which they take all their medications to one of their doctors to do a medical reconciliation. This process helps identify any potential interactions and possible multiplication of effects. While not all memory issues are due to drug side effects, Dr. Haroutunian maintains that many problems could be eliminated by more careful monitoring and more judicious use of physical therapy, diet adjustment, and exercise rather than drugs to solve common problems.
The book also takes a hard look at how older adults can become addicted to pain killers, or may be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.