When senior citizens take medications, the risk of falls may be increased significantly. Nursing homes and caregivers need to be aware of fall risks so they can do their part to protect these vulnerable older adults. A personal injury attorney knows that negligent nursing homes can become legally responsible for victims who get hurt in a fall.
Fall Risk for Senior Citizens in Nursing Homes
Of the top 20 most commonly prescribed medications that older adults take, as many as half of the drugs can significantly increase the risk that a fall will occur. News Max Healthreported on the added risk of falls among patients who take painkillers and who take antidepressants. The risk was identified in a study of seven million Swedish people who were aged 65 and older.
Among the potential test subjects, the researchers found 64,339 cases where seniors suffered a fall injury that resulted in hospitalization. The researchers looked at the role that medications may have played in causing these fall injuries.
With 11 of the 20 medications that were studied, severe injuries were more common when falls occurred. The medications that were most likely to cause seniors to suffer serious falls included analgesics, sedatives and hypnotics as well as antidepressant drugs.
When adjusting for the number of medications taken, men and women taking opioid painkillers were more than twice as likely to suffer a fall than seniors not taking the opioid drugs. Men taking antidepressants were more than twice as likely to fall as seniors not on antidepressants while women who were prescribed this type of medicine were 75 percent more likely to suffer a fall.
Medications prescribed to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and ulcers, as well as some non-opioid painkillers and vitamin B-12, were also linked to between a 15 and a 75 percent greater risk of a senior suffering a fall. By contrast, estrogen therapy and certain heart medications did not increase the risk of falls and some of the drugs affecting the cardiovascular system actually had a protective effect and could potentially make seniors less likely to fall.
The study could not prove that the drugs were the cause of the fall in all cases, especially since in some situations the underlying medical condition may have also made falls more likely. However, the differences in the number of patients who fell when on the medications compared to patients who fell when not taking the high-risk drugs was statistically significant.
Understanding the added risk of falling that can come from taking prescription drugs is very important as the population ages. More than 40 million people in the United States today are 65 or older and many people in this age group take large numbers of prescription drugs. In fact, 1/3 of seniors over 65 take eight or more medications. When these seniors receive nursing home care or are cared for by private home care nurses, the caregivers have a responsibility to understand the risks of a fall and to take steps to prevent the senior from getting hurt.
Contact Bell & Pollock at (877) 744-5900 to schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Denver, CO.