Shocking New Statistics for Medication-Related Senior Falls

woman speaking with a female medical professional via video chatWe’ve known for a long time that there are specific medications that increase the risk of senior falls. 20 years ago, only a little over 1/2 of older adults were impacted by that risk; yet now, that number has increased significantly – to a staggering 94% of seniors who are now in danger of falling as a result of medication side effects. In addition, deaths from such falls are taking place at more than twice the previous rate.

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

The analysis does not specifically identify these medications as the cause for fatality in the falls experienced, but indicates 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 is important for older adults 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 author of the research study, explains, “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 with fall risk include those for depression, blood pressure management, seizures, psychosis, and pain, among others. Women are most often prescribed these types of medications, and those 85 and older are being affected by the highest 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 measures. Generations at Home is pleased to offer an assessment, scheduled at your convenience. We can also help with fall prevention through:

  • Making sure that prescription drugs are taken exactly as prescribed
  • Aiding in safe walking and transfers
  • Encouraging seniors to engage in physician-approved exercise programs to strengthen balance, flexibility, and strength
  • And much more

For additional information about our home care services and to schedule a complimentary assessment, reach out to us at 727-940-3414!