May 6, 2021 by
We have long known that there are particular medications that increase the chance of elderly falls. Two decades ago, slightly more than half of seniors were impacted by that risk; yet today, that number has increased dramatically – to an astounding 94% of seniors who are now at risk of falling because of medication side effects. Not only that but, deaths from such falls are occurring at more than twice the earlier rate.
Researchers who uncovered this growing concern also found that between 1999 and 2017, senior prescriptions for medications that increase fall risk were filled over 7.8 billion times. This includes a spike from 12 million antidepressants in 1999 to greater than 52 million in 2017.
The study doesn’t expressly identify these medications as the cause of fatality in the falls experienced, but signals the need for further exploration into the dosages being prescribed. Joshua Niznik of the division of geriatric medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine notes, “We’re starting to understand now that the dose of the medication that someone is on is really what we should be looking at probably with the greatest level of scrutiny, and that really has a strong correlation with falls.”
It is essential for older adults and their doctors to work together to strike the ideal balance between managing the conditions that require these medications and preventing additional complications from a fall.
Postdoctoral research fellow, Amy Shaver, from the University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, and lead writer of the study, states, “These drugs are all necessary medications, but there needs to be a conversation about risks and advantages, that pro-con conversation about: For this particular patient at this particular point in time, what can we do?”
Prescriptions that are specifically connected to fall risk include those for depression, seizures, blood pressure management, psychosis, and pain, among others. Women are more commonly prescribed these kinds of medications, and those age 85 and older are experiencing the highest spike in fall-related deaths.
One step older adults can take to help is to get the home assessed for fall risk, and to carry out any recommended safety measures. At Home Independent Living, the leading in-home care company in Syracuse, NY and surrounding areas, is pleased to offer an evaluation, scheduled at a time convenient to you. We can also help reduce fall risk through:
- Making certain medicines are taken exactly as prescribed
- Assisting with safe transfers and walking
- Encouraging seniors to take part in doctor-approved exercise programs to bolster balance, strength, and flexibility
- And so much more