What springs to mind when you think of preventing falls in older adults? Putting more lights in the home? Removing clutter and other tripping hazards? Keeping the floors dry and clean? These are all crucial elements of fall prevention, but there is another common cause to keep in mind: medication side effects.
Many older adults are taking multiple medications, often from different prescribing physicians. That is why an important initial step is requesting an extensive review of all medications being taken. The senior’s healthcare provider will be able to provide information on which medications or combinations of medications create a higher risk for falls in older adults. They may also be able to suggest alternative treatment plans that reduce, if not eliminate, medications in order to avoid dangerous falls.
Which Medications Are Associated With Increased Fall Risk?
There are certain medications that can increase the danger of a fall for older adults, by impacting:
- Brain function. Medications such as muscle relaxers, antihistamines, sleep aids, and those that help with vertigo or motion sickness can increase drowsiness or cause sedation. They can also cause or worsen confusion, specifically for people with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
- Blood pressure. Medications for men with an enlarged prostate and those prescribed for high blood pressure may cause an abrupt drop in blood pressure. It is especially common upon standing, a condition called postural hypotension.
- Blood sugar. Medications to regulate blood sugar levels for people with diabetes can occasionally cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can lead to dizziness and an increased risk for falls.
What Can You Do if a Loved One Is Taking One or More of These Meds?
First, make a list of all the medications the individual is taking. This should include OTC medications, supplements, and prescriptions. Write down how often the individual takes each medication, the dosage, and any other notes and comments. With the list in hand, schedule an appointment with the person’s primary care physician.
The aim is to better understand which medications are increasing fall risk on their own, as well as whether any combination of medications might lead to any negative reactions. Ask for answers to the following questions:
- What is each medication for? You’ll want to find out precisely why the medications have been prescribed for the individual. Determine if there are any other options to bring about the same outcomes without an increased risk for falls.
- What are the positives and negatives of continuing to take a medication? Carefully evaluate the advantages of taking a medication that increases fall risk, along with the detrimental effects of stopping the medication.
- Is a lower dose possible? It may be possible for the physician to reduce the amount of a medication while still getting the same benefit and minimizing troubling side effects and fall risks.
Falls in older adults can be extremely dangerous and debilitating. With the doctor’s guidance, you may be able to make a plan to help decrease this risk for someone you love.
Home Care Can Help!
Home With You Senior Care’s experienced care providers can offer fall risk assessments, medication reminders, transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments, and a steadying hand to aid in safe walking, transfers, showering, and much more. Contact us at 410-756-0959 to learn more about how in-home care services can help promote safety at home for someone you love! Our caregivers serve individuals in Ellicott City, Catonsville, Owings Mills, Columbia, Reisterstown, and the surrounding communities.