Ask the Experts

Does ADHD Get Worse With Old Age?

“I’m curious about the effect of old age on ADHD. Do symptoms tend to level off or get progressively worse with age? Is ADHD linked to Alzheimer’s?

Adult attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) has been widely recognized only in the last dozen years, so, at this point, we have little research on how aging impacts ADHD.

As a psychologist who has worked with older adults with ADHD, my clinical impression is that symptoms can become more problematic in old age and post-retirement. We know that, at every age, structure and routine are helpful in managing ADHD symptoms. But as adults grow older and retire, many of their habits and routines fall away. There is no evidence that ADHD is linked to Alzheimer’s, however.

When working with older adults, I advise them to develop and stick to daily and weekly routines. Although some physicians are reluctant to prescribe stimulant medication to older adults, I think it can be used safely and effectively by most older patients as long as they receive a careful medical checkup before starting medication, as the drugs pose higher risks for people with cardiac complications.

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