Benadryl and dementia

My loved one with dementia has abused Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for decades. This is my observation and opinion.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an anticholinergics and they have been linked to increase risk of dementia.

Until a month ago she was able to procure on her own as much Benadryl as she wanted. She simply walked to a CVS or Family Dollar and purchased it.

She has her medication managed by the assisted living to make sure she is taking them as prescribed. Her current prescriptions do not include Benadryl and we have a note that she cannot take it.

So several times a week, I receive a request from her for Benadryl.

I tell her the neurologist does not want her taking it. They advise against Benadryl as it has anticholinergic properties and can cause increased confusion.

My loved one’s nursing career memory kicks in and she expresses disappointment but understands. At that moment she accepts the information. Then forgets we had the discussion.

If I ask what her symptoms are, she replies: “I can’t sleep and it helps me to sleep” or she tells me “my allergies are bothering me.”

She has been prescribed help for sleep by her psychiatrist and help for her allergies by her primary care.

When I tell her that, she replies “oh right”. Then forgets we had the discussion.

I have moved her several times over the past 5 years. Each time I have found large quantities of Benadryl.

Her quality of life is negatively impacted by taking Benadryl. She sleeps excessively during the day. She used it to sleep at night yet complained about not being to sleep. Eventually it did little to help her with allergies

Dementia already claims energy from her. Did over usage (abuse) of Benadryl for decades cause dementia?

We don’t know. We had extended family with diagnosis in their elder years. She was diagnosed at 54 with symptoms in her late 40s. Could it have been delayed?

We will likely never know.

My goal is for her to be safe, see that her physical needs are met and she has best quality of life possible

For the foreseeable future I will be having that conversation about Benadryl with her, over and over again. I will keep new caregivers informed.

But part of her brain functions well and she has managed to order the product via the internet. Now I monitory her credit card activity for deliveries.

Some tasks are more challenging than others and this is one of them.

Does your loved one use Benadryl (diphenhydramine)? Excessively? Talk with your medical team on the risks. I wish I had known.

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