Anxiety Relief for Dementia Patients: Exploring Effective Medication Options


Living with dementia can be challenging, not only for individuals affected by the condition but also for their caregivers and loved ones. Anxiety is a common symptom experienced by dementia patients, often leading to increased distress, ultimately affecting their quality of life. Fortunately, various medications can help alleviate anxiety symptoms in these individuals.

In this article, we will explore the effectiveness of anti-anxiety medications in reducing anxiety symptoms in dementia patients. We will also review some of the best anxiety medications for dementia patients.

The Effectiveness of Anxiety Medications

Recent research reveals an alarming fact that anxiety symptoms are pretty common among dementia patients, ranging from 8% to a staggering 71%. Furthermore, anxiety disorders impact the lives of approximately 5% to 21% of individuals with dementia.

Anxiety symptoms include restlessness, agitation, excessive worrying, and sleep disturbances. These can contribute to further cognitive decline and functional impairment in patients with dementia. Anti-anxiety medications have shown promising results in managing these symptoms, improving overall well-being and quality of life for dementia patients.

Best Anti-Anxiety Medication for Elderly with Dementia

Benzodiazepines and antidepressants are two common medications prescribed to manage anxiety in dementia patients. Let's take a closer look at each category and their respective benefits and considerations.


Benzodiazepines are a class of medications known for their anti-anxiety properties. They enhance the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. While benzodiazepines can be effective in the short term, they should be used cautiously in elderly patients due to the risk of adverse effects and potential cognitive impairment.

Common examples of benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety in dementia patients include:

  • Lorazepam (Ativan). Doctors commonly prescribe Lorazepam (Ativan) for anxiety treatment. It has a relatively fast onset of action, providing quick relief for individuals experiencing anxiety episodes.
  • Alprazolam (Xanax). It has a shorter half-life than other benzodiazepines, making it suitable for managing acute anxiety episodes.
  • Diazepam (Valium). It has anti-anxiety and muscle relaxant properties, which can benefit individuals experiencing anxiety and agitation. It has comparatively less risk of dependency. Diazepam has a longer duration of action and may be prescribed when longer-lasting effects are desired. 
  • Oxazepam (Serepax). It has a shorter duration of action and reduced risk of accumulation. Oxazepam can help manage anxiety symptoms without causing excessive sedation.


Buspirone is classified as a serotonin receptor agonist, specifically targeting the serotonin receptors in the brain. By modulating serotonin levels, buspirone helps to reduce anxiety without causing sedation. This makes buspirone a suitable option for individuals with dementia, as it addresses anxiety symptoms while minimizing the risk of adverse effects.

According to the guidelines set by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), routine administration of other antidepressants is not recommended for managing mild to moderate anxiety in individuals with mild to moderate dementia. These drugs can pose significant risks, including falls, fractures, and potential drug interactions. The guidelines suggest reserving antidepressant usage for cases with an indication of a pre-existing severe mental health problem.

Side Effects and Considerations

When administering anti-anxiety medications to dementia patients, it is essential to consider potential side effects and interactions. While these medications can provide relief, they may also pose risks specifically to older adults.

Common side effects of benzodiazepines may include drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, and impaired coordination. Long-term use of benzodiazepines can lead to dependence, memory problems, and increased risk of falls in elderly patients. Due to these risks, benzodiazepines should be used with regular monitoring and frequent reassessment of their effects.

While buspirone is generally considered a safe and well-tolerated medication, it has potential side effects. Common side effects of buspirone can include dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, nausea, and upset stomach. These effects are typically mild and transient. In some cases, individuals may experience drowsiness or fatigue. Rarely, more severe side effects, such as allergic reactions, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or difficulty breathing, may occur. Medical attention should be sought immediately if these severe side effects occur.

Administering Anti-Anxiety Medications in the Elderly

When prescribing anti-anxiety medications for dementia patients, healthcare professionals must follow best practices to ensure patient safety and efficacy. Here are some key considerations:

  • Comprehensive assessment. A thorough evaluation of the patient's medical history, current medications, and comorbidities should be conducted to determine the most appropriate treatment approach.
  • Individualized treatment. The medication and dosage should be tailored to each patient's needs and circumstances. Age, overall health, and medication interactions should be carefully considered.
  • Regular monitoring. Once the medication is initiated, close monitoring of its effectiveness and potential side effects is crucial. Depending on the individual's response, dosage, or medication type, adjustments may be necessary.
  • Multimodal approach. Medication should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes non-pharmacological interventions, such as cognitive stimulation, social engagement, and structured routines. These strategies can help augment the effects of medication and promote overall well-being.


Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines and buspirone, can effectively reduce anxiety symptoms and improve the quality of life for dementia patients. However, using these medications requires careful consideration of potential side effects, individualized treatment plans, and regular monitoring. By adopting a multimodal approach that combines medicine with non-pharmacological interventions, healthcare professionals can help individuals with dementia and their caregivers manage anxiety more effectively, promoting a greater sense of calm and well-being in their daily lives.



Dr. Umar Javed, MBBS, is a licensed physician who specializes in mental healthcare. He helps create the most up-to-date, science-backed, and detailed patient information for online mental health clinic MEDvidi, using his expertise and research skills. His particular area of interest and research includes the most common mental health problems facing adults, including ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and others.



This article is intended to provide general information about medications for relieving anxiety in dementia patients and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content herein is accurate as of the date of publication, however, new treatments and protocols may be introduced after this date. The medications and treatments discussed in this article may have different effects on different individuals, and they may not be suitable for everyone. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment options. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. The author and the publisher accept no liability for any individual's use of or reliance on the information provided herein.