Falls Prevention: The Impact of Medications

The following guest blog comes to us from our members at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, a 44-bed, free-standing rehabilitation hospital in Prescott Valley that provides physical rehabilitation services to patients recovering from disabilities caused by injuries, illnesses, or chronic medical conditions. This piece looks at medication and how it might be connect to fall prevention. To learn more, call Karen Russell, Community Liaison at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital at 602-540-5310.

Falls are the leading cause of injuries for people 65 and older. Once a person experiences a fall, it can limit mobility and independence, which can decrease the ability to perform everyday tasks. Injuries such as joint sprains, dislocations of the shoulder and hips, and fractured bones are typical injuries caused by falls. Back, spinal cord, and head injuries can also be caused by falls.

Use of prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medication, and herbal supplements – alone or in combination – can increase the risk of falls by causing side effects that can affect balance such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and blurred vision.

“Many medications have possible side effects that can increase fall risks and should be monitored carefully, especially in older adults who may be on more than one medication,” says Mark A. Feltner, Pharm.D , Director of Pharmacy Services at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.  “Not everyone will experience drug side effects in the same way, but it’s important to be aware of what they are for any medications – or combination of medications – that are being taken. Being vigilant can help individuals stay aware of them and decrease their risk of falling.”

For example, if a medication or supplement is known to cause light-headedness or dizziness, Feltner says an individual can get up and down slowly from sitting or lying positions to help control the symptoms. Or if a medication is known to cause decreased coordination, the use of a cane or walker may be helpful.

“Being aware of and managing symptoms can go a long way in fall prevention,” Feltner says. “But, managing medication usage can be extremely helpful as well.” To do this, Feltner recommends the following to anyone who is taking one or more medication or herbal supplement:

  • Review all medicines and supplements you are currently taking with your physician.
  • Ask about possible side effects and interactions between the medications you’re taking.
  • Ask your physician if it’s possible to stop any medications.
  • Ask your physician if you can reduce your medications to a lower dose.
  • Keep a list of your medications and dosage times. Share with your family.
  • Plan your medication usage by using a weekly pill box.

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