Medication-Related Falls in the Elderly: Almost All Seniors are at Risk
Updated: May 14, 2021
A new study out of the United States shows that the number of seniors who are at risk for falls has increased significantly and that medication usage greatly contributes to the issue. The study shows that 20 years ago, a little over half of older adults were impacted by that risk; however presently, that number has increased significantly to a staggering 94% of seniors who are now vulnerable to falling due to medication side effects. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, about one third of seniors fall at least once a year.
Researchers who observed this growing concern also found that between 1999 and 2017, senior prescriptions for medications that escalate fall risk were filled more than 7.8 billion times. This consists of a surge from 12 million antidepressants in 1999 to more than 52 million in 2017.
The research doesn’t expressly pinpoint these medications as the source of fatality in the falls experienced, but indicates the need 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 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 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?”
Prescriptions that are particularly associated with fall risk include those for depression, seizures, blood pressure management, pain, and psychosis, among others. Women are more commonly prescribed these kinds of medications, and those 85 and older are affected by the greatest spike in fall-related deaths.
One step aging adults can take to help is to have their home assessed for fall risk, and to implement any recommended safety measures. The Care Company is pleased to offer an evaluation, scheduled at a time convenient to you. We can also help minimize fall risk through:
Ensuring medicines are taken just as prescribed
Helping with safe transfers and walking
Encouraging older adults to take part in physician-approved exercise programs to bolster balance, strength, and flexibility
And so much more
Give us a call at 416-422-2273 to learn more about our in-home care services and to schedule your assessment today!