We’ve long known that there are certain medications that increase the fall risk for seniors. Twenty years ago, just a little over half of older adults were impacted by that risk; yet today, that number has risen dramatically – to a full 94% of seniors who are now in danger of falling as a result of medication side effects. Not only that, but deaths from such falls are occurring at more than double the previous rate.
Researchers who discovered this increasing 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 more than 52 million in 2017.
The study doesn’t specifically pinpoint these medications as the cause for fatality in the falls experienced, but indicates 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’s crucial for seniors and their doctors to work together to strike the ideal balance between managing the conditions that require 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 author of the study, explains, “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 linked to fall risk include those for depression, blood pressure management, seizures, pain, and psychosis, among others. Women are most often prescribed these types of medications, and those 85 and older are experiencing the highest spike in fall-related deaths.
One step that seniors can take is to have the home assessed for fall risk and to implement any recommended safety measures. Responsive Home Care is pleased to offer an assessment, scheduled at your convenience. We can also help reduce fall risk through:
- Ensuring medications are taken exactly as prescribed
- Assisting with safe walking and transfers
- Encouraging seniors to engage in doctor-approved exercise programs to strengthen balance, flexibility, and strength
- And more