A Fall Is A Threat To The Health And Wellbeing of Seniors And Can Reduce Their Ability To Be Safe and Independent At Home.

Falls are the leading cause of accidental death among people age 65 and older. However, falls are not something that just happens with aging. There are proven strategies to reduce the risk of a fall. Most caregivers for seniors recognize potential hazards that contribute to falls. Throw rugs, multi-level living, and slick bathroom floors readily come to mind. However, a common danger that facilitates falls is not always evident in the home, rather often found hidden behind the closed doors of the medicine cabinet.

Many Factors Work Together To Prevent A Fall.

Medications, both prescription and those sold over-the-counter, can affect factors such as balance and stability. Also, medicines prescribed years ago may no longer provide optimal benefit for specific health conditions. As patients age and the body changes, medications once well tolerated can potentially heighten the risk for accidents and specifically, falls at home. The following drug classes are documented to contribute to cognitive impairment and risk of a fall in older adults:  antihistamines, antianxiety medicines, antidepressives, and sleep aids. 

The American Geriatrics Society provides a list of potentially inappropriate medications (PIMS) listed in the Beers Criteria. This list of medications includes drugs that generate significant side-effects in older populations. Many ill effects include over-sedation, impaired cognition, loss of balance, and dizziness. Side effects such as these often contribute to fatal falls or permanently diminish the patient’s overall health. 

Finding a prescribed medication on the Beers Criteria list is not necessarily cause for alarm. However, it is a great reason to initiate a discussion with healthcare providers and determine if suitable alternatives exist. Some patients continue medications listed on the Beers Criteria. However, increased monitoring for potential side effects may be in order. Often, if medications must remain the same, changes in dosage can minimize the potential for ill effects. Changing the time of day taking a prescription may resolve issues such as over-sedation and significantly improve quality of life.

Multiple Drugs Taken Together Can Be Even Worse In Combination.

It is imperative that all doctors visited are aware of each and every drug that is taken. Maintain an up to date list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, a key component and must be included in any fall prevention plan. Always bring this list to all medical appointments. Often the effects of drugs are additive and not proportional. This way the doctor can review it for side effects and interactions that may increase the risk of a fall. 

Additionally, take care to inform healthcare providers immediately should you notice:

  • Significant changes in mood or behavior.
  • Sudden adjustments such as holding on to walls or furniture when walking.
  • Difficulty getting out of chairs and/or bed.
  • Increased confusion or difficulty following directions.

Don’t assume fluctuations are merely a regular part of the aging process. Sudden changes such as these may signal an urgent need to reevaluate current drug therapy. Consider replacing familiar long-term medicines with others that minimize potential side-effects on balance, coordination, and mental clarity.

The National Council on Aging provides more tips on how to prevent falls in the home.

Regular Communication Between The Patient, Family And Healthcare Team Play A Vital Role In Keeping Seniors Safe At Home.

A coordinated approach to comprehensive healthcare promotes the best outcomes. Proactive medication review with healthcare providers can pinpoint potential pitfalls in the current drug therapy and prompt changes to safer alternatives.

When possible, utilize one pharmacy for prescriptions to maintain a comprehensive detail of current treatment and screen for problems. The pharmacist can frequently offer solutions before issues occur. The pharmacists training is in mitigating potential side effects and interactions to allow patients the maximum benefit from their medications. Most Medicare plans encourage these reviews and reimburse the pharmacist to provide this individualized service.

A pharmacist and registered nurse comprises the executive team at Hibernian Home Care. They are available to assist patients and families with medication reconciliation and management, appointments, as well as other assessments and services. They specialize in providing solutions that allow seniors to age in place with dignity and grace in the comforts of their own home. Contact Hibernian Home Care by calling 732-481-1148 or using the Contact Us online form.