Q. I want to sound an alarm about Gelnique in elderly patients. My 86-year-old father applied this gel for bladder control.
After three weeks of daily use, he started acting odd. A month in, he had symptoms of dementia. The insert that came with the drug never mentioned this as a side effect.
I made him quit taking it because he developed a rash. Not only did the rash go away, but so did most of the cognitive symptoms. Hopefully he will get back to where he was once the drug is out of his system.
I don’t want others to lose their minds needlessly. Thank goodness I did not chalk this reaction up to his age as his physician did.

A. Your father was fortunate that you were so vigilant. Drugs for overactive bladder such as oxybutynin (Ditropan, Gelnique, Oxytrol) can affect memory and cognition, especially in older people (Current Urology Reports, Oct. 2011). Whether the drug is taken orally or as a patch or gel, it gets into the circulation and can affect the brain.
Many other medications may also interfere with optimal brain function in the elderly (Der Internist, Oct. 2012). They include anti-anxiety drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax) or lorazepam (Ativan), certain antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin), some antidepressants (amitriptyline, doxepin) and narcotic pain relievers (oxycodone).
We are sending you our Guide to Drugs & Older People for more detailed information about many other medications that should not be taken by seniors. We hope that will help you as you monitor your father’s health in the future.

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  1. Cindy

    My mother-in-law is 97. About 1 1/2 years ago I noticed that her clinic had put her on two medications that were on the list of drugs that cause memory and cognition problems for older ones. She hardly knew what day it was and choose to spend most of the day in bed. My research made me believe that she did not need these drugs. I found a few alternatives to accomplish the goal of the Rx’s. At that time her doctor and her cardiologist got upset with me when I wrote them a letter explaining my plan and the reasons. They wrote her off and referred us to the doctor who is in charge of our local Hospice.
    At our first visit with this doctor, he told me that he would have taken his mother off of at least one of the medications himself. He set her up for a once a month, in-home palliative visit by his physician assistant. Now 1 1/2 years later she is doing so well that they have taken her off that program and have her back coming into the clinic every 3 months for a check up. She is only on a small dose of blood pressure medication but on several alternative vitamins and herbs.
    My conclusion and my appeal to others – please get involved with your elderly loved one’s medical care. Research. Look at risk versus benefit. Make sure they are drinking enough. I also learned this – doctors can’t seem to help themselves. They have a knee-jerk reaction to prescribe something. It is as if your visit to them is not complete unless they send you off with a Rx. Even this really nice head of Hospice suggested we could put my mother-in-law on one of the drugs for supposedly improving dementia {which she doesn’t have} and memory.
    Thanks to your website, I am so much more informed. It is truly invaluable in making medical decisions. ~ Thank you, Cindy

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