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Medication Review: Watch out for Anticholinergics

by Dr Grace Wong, Bachelor of Medical Studies (Dist.) / Doctor of Medicine (Dist.)

As we age, the quantity and types of medications we need often increases and becomes more complicated. It is therefore important to regularly review your medications, particularly after being at hospital or following a new diagnosis.

Of particular concern, some medications may have “anticholinergic” properties, which can have a range of adverse effects. Common side effects of medications with anticholinergic properties include dry mouth, constipation and changes in urinary patterns. There is also a risk of cognitive or memory decline and concentration problems. To reduce this risk, it is useful to firstly identify whether any of your medications have these properties.

Medications with “anticholinergic” properties include those used for:

  • Incontinence
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney and fluid problems

Anticholinergic burden increases with the number of medicines you take which have anticholinergic properties. The more you take, the more likely your memory and thinking may be affected. Therefore, it is important to work in conjunction with your GP and pharmacist/specialist doctor to minimise the number of these medications and consider safer alternatives.

You can ask your local GP to arrange a Home Medication Management Review. This is a free service which is also available to those in residential aged care facilities.

The service involves your GP collaborating with a preferred community pharmacist, and other relevant health care providers such as a carer or nurse. Together, they will work with you to find the best medication management plan for your individual situation.

Other considerations

Keep an up-to-date list of your medications as this may be needed in the case of an emergency, if you go away on holidays, or if you need to go to hospital or other care facility.

If you are taking a lot of medications at different times on different days, consider using a tablet box, a Webster Pack or similar, which the pharmacist can prepare. Webster packs help you remember when and which tablets to take each day. There are multilingual packs available, and packs suitable for people with low vision. Also note that many pharmacies offer a delivery service.


For more information


Helpful articles on this website for people living with dementia


Helpful articles on this website for carers