May 10, 2021
We have known for a while that there are specific medications that enhance the risk of senior falls. 20 years ago, only a little over 50% of older adults were impacted by that risk; however today, that number has increased considerably – to an astounding 94% of seniors who are now in danger of falling due to medication side effects. In addition, deaths from such falls are taking place at more than twice the earlier rate.
Researchers who uncovered this increasing concern also found that between 1999 and 2017, senior prescriptions for medications that escalate 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 analysis does not specifically pinpoint these medications as the cause of fatality in the falls experienced, but indicates the need for additional investigation 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 is essential for seniors and their physicians to work together to strike the perfect balance between managing the conditions that warrant these medications and preventing additional 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 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 that are specifically connected to fall risk include those for depression, seizures, blood pressure management, psychosis, pain, and others. Women are most frequently prescribed these kinds of medications, and those 85 and older are being affected by the greatest spike in fall-related deaths.
One step seniors can take to help is to have the home assessed for fall risk, and to implement any recommended safety precautions. Continuum, the leading expert in home care in St. Louis and surrounding areas, is pleased to offer an assessment, scheduled at a time convenient to you. We can also help lower fall risk through:
- Making certain prescription medications are taken just as prescribed
- Assisting with safe walking and transfers
- Encouraging older adults to engage in doctor-approved exercise programs to strengthen balance, flexibility, and strength
- And so much more