The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden recently performed a study with some valuable information. It stated that some of the most common medications prescribed to older adults can increase the risk of a fall. This can therefore lead to subsequent injuries and a decreased level of independence.

One-third of Americans over 65 take a tumble each year. These instances of falling represents the largest source of fatal and nonfatal injury among older adults. Preventing falls in this population remains a top priority for health care providers and caregivers alike.

The Cause

Jette Moller, study author and lecturer with the Department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska, points out that a person’s age, sex and health condition(s) can all compound fall risk. These factors are largely uncontrollable, but proper medication management could be a simple way to improve an older adult’s chances of staying safely on their feet.

Polypharmacy, refers to the effects of taking four or more medications concurrently to manage coexisting health problems. What’s concerning is over 76 percent of Americans over age 60 and older take two or more prescription drugs on a regular basis. What’s even more concerning is that thirty-seven percent take five or more. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

“Polypharmacy been suggested to increase the risk for a fall in several ways. The greater risk of side-effects and interactions between medications is one of these major concerns. Drugs that affect the central nervous system—antidepressants, hypnotics and opioids—have long topped the list of pharmaceuticals that may increase fall risk; along with diuretics, constipation medications and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which are the most-common of pain relief medications in the world.

The list of commonly prescribed drugs that may enhance fall injury risk includes. (according to Moller’s research)

  • Antithrombotic agents
  • Drugs for peptic ulcer and GERD
  • Loop diuretics
  • NSAIDs (women only)
  • Vitamin B12 and folic acid
  • constipation drugs
  • calcium
  • hypnotics and sedatives
  • analgesics and antipyretics
  • opioids
  • antidepressants
  • thyroid hormones (men only)

Consequently, any medication that causes drowsiness, dizziness, vision problems, gait disturbance (ataxia), hypotension, or one that increases bleeding risk or exacerbates osteoporosis could potentially up the chances of experiencing a harmful fall.

Communication is Key

It is important to know all you can about the medications you are taking. However, never decide on your own when you should stop taking a drug without first consulting with your doctor. This is because doctors must constantly weigh the benefits and drawbacks of every medication they prescribe, and, in many cases, there are no alternative drugs for them to consider. Your physician will know how to best-direct you regarding your concerns. Communication with health-care providers is the best approach to keeping one safe from possible side-effects and subsequent falls.

If you see more than one doctor, make sure each doctor has a current list of all the medications (prescribed and OTC) that you are taking. Certain drugs should not be taken together and can have a negative effect on your overall health. Which includes increasing your risk for falls.

How In Home Care Can Help

An in home care giver can help prevent your loved one from succumbing.  They can also be there to assist in the event that a fall takes place. In Home Care Givers can help your loved one stay hydrated, eat nourishing meals and maintain a consistent fitness routine. This includes strength training and balance exercises. In effect, an In Home Care Giver can assist in the effort to ward off the likelihood of a fall. If your loved one does experience a fall, the assistance of a care provider could be crucial for the odds for a good recovery.

Fall no more my friends!