Medication Side Effects Lead to Increased Fall Risk for Seniors

We’ve known for a long time that there are specific medications that increase the likelihood of falls for older adults. Two decades ago, a little over 50% of elderly people were impacted by that risk; yet today, that number has increased dramatically – to an astounding 94% of seniors who are now in danger of falling because of medication side effects. Not only that but, deaths from such falls are taking place at more than twice the prior rate.

Scientists who identified this growing concern also found that between 1999 and 2017, senior prescriptions for medications that escalate fall risk were filled in excess of 7.8 billion times. This includes a spike from 12 million antidepressants in 1999 to greater than 52 million in 2017.

The analysis doesn’t specifically pinpoint these medications as the cause of fatality in the falls experienced, but indicates the necessity 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 perfect balance between managing the health conditions that need 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 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 linked to fall risk include those for depression, blood pressure management, seizures, pain, and psychosis, among others. Women are more commonly 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 follow through with any recommended safety precautions. Seniorcorp is pleased to offer an evaluation, scheduled at a time convenient to you. We can also help minimize fall risk by:

  • Ensuring prescribed medicines are taken just as directed
  • Assisting with safe walking and transfers
  • Encouraging older adults to engage in physician-approved exercise programs to bolster balance, flexibility, and strength
  • And more

For additional information about our senior services in Chesapeake, VA and surrounding areas, and to schedule a complimentary assessment, reach out to us at 757-640-0557! For a full list of all of the communities we serve, please visit our Service Area page.