As we get older, the likelihood increases that we’ll be put on at least one or two medications. Some people wind up taking far more each day. And while they’re necessary to treat the various conditions we may have, almost every medication carries with it a certain potential for side effects. One of the more common side effects is an increased risk for falls, which older adults often are at a greater risk for already. But, it’s not just older adults who are susceptible to the fall risk increase that comes with medications. No matter your age, the good news is that there are strategies for helping manage these increased fall risks.
“Medication management can reduce interactions and side effects that can lead to falls,” said Blount Memorial Hospital director of pharmacy emeritus Jeanne Ezell. “The first tip is to be diligent and keep an up-to-date list of all the medications you’re taking. Your list should include all your prescriptions, but also non-prescriptions such as aspirin, vitamins, nutritional or herbal products, inhalers, patches, eye drops, and creams and ointments. You should carry this with you, as well, especially to any physician appointments you may have. If you add a new medication to your daily regimen, add it to your list. Similarly, if you stop taking one, take it off the list,” she explained. “When your physician prescribes a new medication for you, be sure to ask him or her questions about the medication’s purpose, how you should take it, and whether it has any side effects or interactions with medicines you’re already taking. If a medicine has potentially harmful side effects, there may be alternatives that have lower fall risks,” she added.
Ezell says medications that are likely to increase your risk for falls include anticonvulsants, opioids, antidepressants and antihypertensives. “These are medicines that treat everything from seizures and depression to pain and low blood pressure,” Ezell said. “These types of medications can cause dizziness, blurred vision, confusion and tiredness, all of which can increase your chance of falling. Your physician and pharmacist can help you with a plan for dealing with these side effects, which can include dose reduction, tapering of a medicine you’re already taking, or switching to a different, but similar medication altogether,” she explained.
“In addition to better medication management, it also can be helpful to implement other strategies to reduce your fall risk,” Ezell continued. “For instance, do your best to make your home a fall-proof space by removing obstacles and trip hazards, especially in high-traffic areas. Next, consider a balance-focused exercise program. Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation has a team that focuses on fall prevention and balance, and the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook occasionally offers balance assessments, particularly during Fall Prevention Week each September, as well as some helpful fall-prevention classes,” she said. “But the most important thing is to discuss your concerns about falling proactively with your physician and pharmacist, especially if you’ve fallen in the past. He or she can help you determine the best course of action and find beneficial resources nearby,” she added.