The Best Anti-Anxiety Medication for Elderly with Dementia

In this article...
  • Many people with dementia also have increased levels of anxiety. Keep reading to learn more about the best anti-anxiety medication for elderly with dementia.

Dementia makes it difficult to think clearly, causing increased anxiety in a variety of circumstances. Anxiety typically increases any time there is a change in environment, such as when someone with dementia moves to a new residence or starts working with a new caregiver. People with dementia also experience anxiety when they're confused and can't make sense of what's happening. If someone you love has dementia, one of these medications may reduce their anxiety and improve their quality of life.

Who Might Benefit From the Best Anti-Anxiety Medication for Elderly With Dementia?

Everyone gets a little anxious sometimes, but people with dementia may struggle with frequent anxiety caused by confusion or difficulty adjusting to life changes. Chronic anxiety can cause appetite changes, make it difficult to get a good night's sleep or cause severe distress in someone who has dementia. Your loved one may benefit from anti-anxiety medications if their anxiety is so severe that it's making it difficult to socialize or perform basic activities of daily living.

Does Medicare or Insurance Cover the Best Anti-Anxiety Medication for Elderly With Dementia?

Original Medicare doesn't cover most prescription medications. Prescription anti-anxiety medications taken at home are covered by Medicare Part D, a supplemental prescription plan, or Medicare Advantage Plans that include prescription coverage. Medicare Part D doesn't cover over-the-counter medications, but some Medicare Advantage Plans include allowances to help beneficiaries purchase medications that don't require a prescription.

Important Considerations When Choosing the Best Anti-Anxiety Medication for Elderly With Dementia?

When choosing an anti-anxiety medication, it's important to consider a person's medical history and the severity of their anxiety. Benzodiazepines, which are commonly used to treat anxiety, aren't recommended for people with narrow-angle glaucoma, a condition that can damage the optic nerve. Because they can be habit-forming, benzodiazepines are also contraindicated in people with drug or alcohol addictions.

Anti-anxiety medications are appropriate for people with chronic anxiety that doesn't improve with lifestyle changes. For people with mild anxiety, meditation, exercise and dietary changes may be more appropriate. It's important to consult with a medical professional to determine if anxiety is severe enough to warrant medication.

4 Best Anti-Anxiety Medications for Elderly With Dementia

Several types of medications are used to treat anxiety in people with dementia. Most of them are available by prescription only, but there are some over-the-counter options. These are four of the best anti-anxiety medications on the market.


Alprazolam is an anti-anxiety medication that works by reducing abnormal excitement in the brain. One potential benefit of choosing alprazolam is that it's available as a liquid and as a dissolving tablet, making it easier for older people to treat their anxiety without having to swallow a pill. The most common side effects of alprazolam include drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness and headache.


Clonazepam reduces abnormal electrical activity in the brain, easing anxiety. If your loved one can't swallow pills safely, their doctor may prescribe the disintegrating form of clonazepam, which dissolves under the tongue. Drowsiness and dizziness are among the most common side effects of this anti-anxiety medication. Clonazepam may also cause difficulty thinking, poor coordination, unsteadiness and pain in the muscles or joints.


Like other benzodiazepines, diazepam treats anxiety by reducing the amount of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This medication is used to treat several medical conditions, so it may be a good choice if your loved one also has muscle spasms or other symptoms caused by a neurological disorder. Some of the most common side effects of diazepam include drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, dry mouth and headache.


Diphenhydramine is an over-the-counter medication usually used to treat allergies. Because it causes drowsiness, it's sometimes used to help people with anxiety sleep better, which can make their symptoms more manageable during the day. Diphenhydramine may be a good choice for an elderly person with dementia if anxiety is making it difficult to get a good night's rest or if the person has allergies and needs a medication that controls allergy symptoms and helps relieve anxiety. In addition to drowsiness, diphenhydramine can cause dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite and headache.

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