Common Medications That Can Increase Fall Risk in Seniors

senior man looking at presription bottle

Speak with the physician about medications that can increase fall risk in seniors and find out if there are safer alternatives.

When you consider fall prevention for an older loved one, it’s likely you think about hazards around the house or strength and mobility exercises to improve balance. However, did you know that one of the most common causes of increased fall risk in older adults are adverse reactions to medications?

To guard against this, it is recommended to speak with the older adult’s physician and ask for a comprehensive medication review. During the review, the physician will identify medications that can increase fall risk in seniors, and she or he will work with the senior to try to reduce or eliminate these medications when possible.

Categories of Medications That Can Increase Fall Risk in Seniors

There are three primary categories of prescription medications that can contribute to an increased fall risk in older adults. They are:

  • Medications That Affect Blood Pressure. These may cause or worsen a sudden fall in blood pressure. Many older adults experience a drop in blood pressure when they stand up, a condition called postural hypotension. Medications prescribed for high blood pressure or to make urination easier in men with an enlarged prostate can have side effects that make postural hypotension worse.
  • Medications That Affect Brain Function. These may increase drowsiness or cause sedation, putting older adults at risk. Additionally, they may worsen or cause confusion, particularly in people with dementia. This may include over the counter and prescription sleep aids, antihistamines, muscle relaxers, medications for motion sickness or vertigo, and more.
  • Medications That Lower Blood Sugar. With approximately 25% of people over the age of 65 diagnosed with diabetes, many older adults take medications to keep their blood sugar from getting too high. A number of these medications can cause or worsen hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which has been associated with falls in people with diabetes.

Steps to Take if a Medication May Contribute to an Increased Fall Risk

If an older loved one is currently taking a prescribed or over-the-counter medication that may fall into one of these categories, set up an appointment with the senior’s physician for a medication review. This will help determine if any of the medications can be stopped, switched or reduced.

Prior to the appointment, be sure to create a comprehensive list of both over-the-counter and prescription medications the older adult takes with any regularity. In addition to the names of the medications, note the dose and frequency. Take this list along to the senior’s appointment so that the physician can review each medication, looking not only for those that may increase fall risk, but also any that may cause adverse reactions when taken together. Additionally, ask the physician the following questions about each medication on the list you have compiled:

  • What is this medication used to treat or manage? Find out exactly why the medication has been prescribed. Once this information is provided, ask if there are alternatives that can manage the condition, but that may have fewer side effects linked to an increased fall risk. Finally, ask if there are non-drug treatments that could work to keep the condition under control.
  • Is a reduced dose of the medication an option? Sometimes the amount of a particular medication can be decreased and still provide the needed benefits, while also decreasing the potential side effects that may lead to a fall.
  • What are the benefits of sticking with the medication? Determine exactly what the benefits are from taking the medication, as well as what the risk factors are if the senior were to stop taking the medication.

How In-Home Care Can Help

To help ensure an older loved one is safe and taking medications as prescribed, the in-home care experts at Visiting Care Giving Services can help. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team can offer medication reminders and watch for any adverse side effects that may place the older adult at risk. In addition, we can provide a thorough assessment of the home to reduce the risk of falls and encouragement to participate in physician-recommended exercises to help maintain strength and balance. We offer a variety of medical and non-medical home care services from companion care to private duty nursing and everything in between.

To learn more about how our elderly care in St. Charles, MO is trusted by families throughout the area, contact us today at (636) 493-9058. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.