New Research Shows Certain Medications Increase Fall Risk for 94% of Seniors

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A distressing data set from the University of Buffalo shows how certain medications increase seniors’ chances of falling. Since many seniors are already prone to falling, these medications could make them that much more vulnerable. 

Older adults are often prescribed multiple medications for mental and physical health. Each medication has its own unique set of benefits and side effects. The study indicates that use of multiple medications in older adults has increased over time, driving up their chances of falling. It is an alarming finding that fall risks are exacerbated by the use of essential medications. 

Our Alert1 team is dedicated to understanding the complexity of fall risks for the elderly population and has focused everything we do on how to best respond when an unfortunate emergency arises. Because certain medications can increase your risk of falling, we highly recommend medical alert systems with built-in fall detection technology for any senior taking multiple prescription drugs.

Fall Injuries and Dangers

The CDC reports that 25% of older adults will fall each year. Whether you slip in the shower, on uneven carpet or pavement, or in a stairwell in your home, these falls can be slow to heal and may cause lasting damage. Hip fractures and head trauma are common fall injuries that may require hospitalization. Other injuries, and subsequent surgeries, require increased recovery time. A fall that lasts a few seconds could prompt months of painful recovery. Prompt assistance in the event of such a medical emergency is key.

Even if a fall does not cause a lasting injury, falling once doubles your chances of falling again. Additionally, falling can impact one’s quality of life as the fear of falling again can cause many older adults to limit day-to-day activities in an effort to avoid repeating the traumatic experience. These physical limitations often make older adults weaker, which ultimately and ironically increases their chances of falling again.

The threshold for a fatal fall becomes lower and lower as you age. The University of Buffalo study found the rate of death caused by falls in older adults doubled between 1999 and 2017. Startling statistics like this put the importance of this issue in perspective. Because this increased risk of falling is a very real and significant threat to seniors, Alert1 highly recommends that elderly persons wear a personal medical alarm button device with fall detection technology.

Medications that increase the risk of falling put seniors at an extreme disadvantage. A medical alert system can complement your essential medications by providing a necessary lifeline after a fall. The faster you can get help after a fall, the faster your recovery can begin. Alert1’s emergency Command Centers are staffed with highly certified agents who are trained to give you the help you need, the moment you need it. 

You can trust our agents to give you medically-appropriate support while you are in crisis. When you prioritize your health by using a medical alert system, you could be saving your own life. What’s more, in the midst of a traumatic, painful, unexpected accident, it can be confusing, frightening, and disorienting. Not only does a medical alert button provide instant assistance, but Alert1’s trained emergency agents stay on the line with fall victims until the necessary help arrives on-site—so no one ever has to face an emergency alone and unsupported.

Research Reveals a Connection Between Medications and Increased Risks of Falling

The University of Buffalo conducted a study from 1999 to 2017 to understand the connection between commonly prescribed medications and a person’s risk of falling. At the beginning of the study in 1999, 57% of adults 65 and older were prescribed a drug that increased their risk of falling. That number rose to 94% by the end of the study in 2017. These medications are often everyday lifesavers themselves, helping seniors to alleviate pain and comfortably live their lives. 

These medications include:

  • Anticonvulsants (manages fibromyalgia, migraines, seizures, and more)
  • Antidepressants (manages symptoms of depression)
  • Antihypertensives (manages high blood pressure)
  • Antipsychotics (treats mood disorders, dementia, and more)
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers that treat anxiety, such as Xanax and Valium)
  • Opioids (treats both acute and chronic pain, and often prescribed after surgery)
  • Sedative hypnotics (manages insomnia or other sleep problems)
  • Other non-prescription medications (sleep aids, antihistamines, and other over-the-counter options)

Seniors are prescribed antipsychotics, opioids, or any number of medications as a response to age-related medical conditions. These medications have far-reaching benefits, yet if you are prescribed one or more of these medications, you have an increased risk of falling. 

Blood pressure medication accounts for many of the prescriptions in the study. However, the researchers also found a dramatic increase in antidepressant usage. The number of prescriptions rose from 12 million in 1999 to 52 million in 2017. Seniors are prescribed SSRIs and other antidepressant medications at high rates. Loneliness, isolation, and loss of mobility are just some of the reasons seniors develop issues with their mental health. 

Additionally, several diabetes medications have been shown to increase fall risks, as well. One’s incidence of developing diabetes increases as one ages.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many seniors’ anxiety and depression to new heights. Trends in seniors’ mental health influence our work. An unexpected pandemic or other major life event might cause you to change your daily medications. If those medications happen to increase your risk of falling, you should consider a medical alert system for peace of mind and protection. 

Providing Assistance and Support to Seniors with Increased Fall Risks

The combined effects of an aging body and medications that increase risk of falling put seniors in danger. When 94% of older adults are prescribed medication that increases the risk of falling, our medical alert systems become more integral than ever before.

While your medical team prescribed essential medications to alleviate discomfort and manage conditions, the increased risk of falling cannot be ignored as a very real side effect. Slips and falls become more than just nuisances for seniors. A fall could cost an older adult his or her mobility, freedom, or even life. At Alert1, we want you to feel safe, empowered, independent, and in control. 

After a year spent at home to protect yourself from COVID, you might be ready to visit places you have missed. We urge seniors to consider an Alert1 medical alert system that uses fall detection technology. If our built-in fall detection sensors register that a fall has occurred, the device itself prompts a call to our emergency Command Center, even if you are injured and cannot push the alert button yourself. Things happen fast when you fall. Let Alert1’s fall detection technology relieve some of that stress. If that additional security feels right for you, the At-Home + Fall Detection, the On-the-Go + Fall Detection, and At-Home + On-the-Go + Fall Detection medical alert systems all include fall detection technology.

Lifesaving, essential medications are critically important to maintaining health as we age. If those medications increase the risks of falling, it would be prudent to assess your fall risk factors. Meeting the criteria for any one risk factor justifies the need for a medical alert system. For those seniors that have more than one fall risk factor, a medical alert system seems like an ideal choice to ensure one’s safety.