We’ve known for a long time that there are particular medications that raise senior fall risk. Twenty years ago, only a little more than 1/2 of elderly people were impacted by that risk; presently, that number has increased significantly – to a full 94% of seniors who are now vulnerable to falling due to medication side effects. In addition, deaths from such falls are occurring at more than twice the prior rate.
Scientists who observed this ever-increasing concern also discovered that between 1999 and 2017, senior prescriptions for medications that escalate senior fall risk were filled more than 7.8 billion times. This includes a spike from 12 million antidepressants in 1999 to greater than 52 million in 2017.
The study does not expressly pinpoint these medications as the source of fatality in the falls experienced, but signals the requirement 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 doctors to work together to strike the ideal balance between managing the conditions that necessitate 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 typically associated with senior fall risk include those for depression, seizures, blood pressure management, pain, and psychosis, and others. Women are most frequently prescribed these types of medications, and those ages 85 and older are being affected by the greatest spike in fall-related deaths.
One step older adults can take to help is to get their home assessed for fall risk, and to implement any recommended safety precautions. JFS Care is pleased to offer an assessment, scheduled at your convenience. Our expert caregivers can also help reduce fall risk through:
- Ensuring prescription drugs are taken just as prescribed
- Aiding in safe transfers and walking
- Encouraging seniors to engage in physician-approved exercise programs to strengthen balance, strength, and flexibility
- And much more