Senior citizen holding their medication.

Could Medication Cause a Fall for One of Your Loved Ones?

“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

How many times have we seen that commercial and laughed at it? It's been the butt of a million jokes. However falling is no joke for seniors. As our loved ones age, everyone's biggest fear is having them lose their independence. And a fall is the number one reason that happens. Over one third of individuals 65 and older will have a fall this year. Some will be lucky and suffer just a few bruises and cuts, but many will suffer much more serious consequences such as broken bones, head injuries, and even death.

How can this be prevented, so the golden years can truly be enjoyable for them and us? Well for starters, did you know that falls can be directly related to medication side effects or misuse? Although there are other risk factors for falls, such as physical instability from change in muscle mass and degenerative joint diseases, these risk factors are not as easily prevented. The best thing you or your senior loved ones can do is pay attention to the medications they are taking, and their side effects, and make sure they are being taken correctly.

Know The Side Effects of Your Medications

Some of the most commonly used drugs have scary side effects that can lead to falls, so it is important to be aware of what they are. Ask your doctor or pharmacist when the drug is prescribed about potential side effects, and keep on eye on any differences that you or others notice in your physical and mental abilities.

Here is a list of medications that have been shown to have a high correlation to increased falls:

These drugs all have side effects that can include but are not limited to sedation, confusion, lack of coordination, lethargy, double vision, sleep disturbance, and weakness. It is not hard to see how these drugs may lead to falls. Something else to consider is that some of these drugs may also cause a drop in bone density. Frail bones and falls are a bad combination that can lead to serious fractures.

How Many Medications are You on?

Twenty percent of seniors who are on medication, are taking four or more of them. This doesn’t sound so crazy considering most people over the age of 65 have to carry around a list of medications to remember which ones they are on. However, what most seniors don’t know is that being on four or more medications causes a significant increase in the rate of falls. If you, or a loved one, has a laundry list of medications, be sure to have mental and physical assessments performed regularly to stop a fall before it happens.

Are Your Medications Necessary?

Recent studies have brought to light the amount of medications that have been unnecessarily prescribed to patients, especially seniors. When a person 65 or older makes a visit to the doctor, nearly 10 percent of them are given medications they do not need. However, that is nothing compared to the nearly fifty percent living in nursing homes. The best way to prevent taking medications that are not needed, is to have your primary care physician monitor all of your care. Many times specialist and emergency visits will result in new medications. Be sure to forward all new medical information to your primary care physician, and always follow up with them after any change in care or medical event.

Accidents are inevitable, but we want to do all we can to prevent them, especially when it comes to seniors and falls. So if you are a senior, be sure you talk to your doctor about the medications you are on, and their potential side effects. If you are on multiple medications, ask if they are all necessary. Your healthcare provider may be able to wean you off those that aren’t. Be sure you are taking your medications correctly, follow instructions that may include time of day, or eating habits. And for those of us who are not in our golden years, be an advocate for your loved ones who are. Ask questions, go with them to doctors appointments, and check in frequently. Working together, we can decrease the prevalence in falls and life changing injuries.

The information in this article is for general educational purposes only, and should not be construed or interpreted as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new heathcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article or any linked materials.

Anna Mahoney is a Licensed Acupuncturist with a Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition from Rutgers University. In her practice, she focuses on bringing her patients back to health through Chinese Medicine, nutritional counseling, and overall wellness care. In her personal life, she is a passionate cook, musician, yogi, and athlete. Anna lives in New Jersey, with her husband, John, and their dog, Betty. Anna blogs at The Green Banana.