Startling New Medication-Related Fall Risks for Seniors: Are You at Risk?

elderly woman researching medication-related fall risks
Midnight Sun in Anchorage discusses medication-related fall risks for seniors and ways to mitigate them.

We’ve known for a while that there are certain medications that enhance the danger of falls for seniors. Twenty years ago, slightly over 50% of elderly people were impacted by that risk; presently, that number has risen dramatically to a full 94% of seniors who are now vulnerable to falling as a result of medication side effects. In addition, deaths from such falls are occurring at more than twice the earlier rate. With fall risks for seniors on the rise, it’s important to understand this concerning phenomenon.

Researchers who observed this increasing risk also discovered that between 1999 and 2017, senior prescriptions for medications that escalate fall risk were filled over 7.8 billion times. This includes a surge from 12 million antidepressants in 1999 to more than 52 million in 2017.

The analysis does not specifically pinpoint these medications as the cause for fatality in the falls experienced, but suggests the necessity for additional exploration into the dosages being prescribed. Joshua Niznik at 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 important for seniors and their doctors to work together to strike the perfect balance between managing the health conditions that need these medications and preventing further 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 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?”

Prescription medications that are particularly linked to fall risk include those for depression, seizures, blood pressure management, psychosis, and pain, among others. Women are most often prescribed these kinds of medications, and those 85 and older are being affected by the highest spike in fall-related deaths.

One step that seniors can take to help is to get the home assessed for fall risks for seniors, and to carry out any recommended safety measures. Midnight Sun Home Care is pleased to offer an assessment, scheduled at a time convenient to you. We can also help decrease fall risk through:

  • Making sure that prescription medications are taken exactly as prescribed
  • Helping with safe transfers and walking
  • Encouraging seniors to take part in doctor-approved exercise programs to strengthen balance, flexibility, and strength
  • And more

For additional information about the in-home care services provided by Midnight Sun in Anchorage and nearby areas and to schedule a complimentary assessment, reach out to us online or give us a call at (907) 677-7890.


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