We have known for a long time that there are specific medications that increase the fall risk for seniors. Twenty years ago, a little more than half of seniors were impacted by that risk; however today, that number has increased considerably – to an astounding 94% of seniors who are now vulnerable to falling due to medication side effects. Not only that but, deaths from such falls are taking place at more than twice the earlier rate.
Researchers who discovered this growing concern also found that between 1999 and 2017, prescriptions for medications that increase fall risk for seniors were filled over 7.8 billion times. This consists of a spike from 12 million antidepressants in 1999 to greater than 52 million in 2017.
The study doesn’t expressly determine these medications as the source of fatality in the falls experienced, but indicates the necessity for additional exploration into the dosages being prescribed. Joshua Niznik in the geriatric medicine division 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’s essential for seniors and their physicians to work together to strike the perfect balance between managing the conditions that warrant these medications and preventing further complications from a fall.
Amy Shaver, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, and lead writer of the research study, says, “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?”
Medications which happen to be specifically connected with fall risk include those for depression, seizures, blood pressure management, psychosis, and pain, among others. Women are most often prescribed these kinds of medications, and those 85 and older are experiencing the highest spike in fall-related deaths.
One step older adults can take to help is to have the home assessed for fall risk, and to carry out any recommended safety measures. CareWorks Health Services, award-winning providers of home care in Mission Viejo and the surrounding Orange County communities, is pleased to offer an evaluation, scheduled at a time convenient to you. We can also help minimize fall risk through:
- Making certain medicines are taken exactly as prescribed
- Assisting with safe walking and transfers
- Encouraging seniors to take part in physician-approved exercise programs to bolster balance, strength, and flexibility
- And more