New research shows that half of the 20 most commonly prescribed medications taken by older adults may raise the risk of falls, causing broken hips or wrists in those with osteoporosis. Although some risk may stem from the conditions the drugs are prescribed for, there are still strong links between drugs and falls.
Painkillers and antidepressants are strongly linked, according to a study of over 64,000 Swedes over age 65. Severe injuries were significantly more common in eleven out of the twenty medications studied.
After adjusting for the number of medications a person was taking, the researchers found that men and women taking opioid painkillers as well as men taking antidepressants were more than twice as likely to have a fall injury as seniors who were not. Women taking antidepressants were as high as 75% more likely to have a fall injury. Drugs for ulcers, acid reflux, calcium, vitamin B12 and some non-opioid painkillers were also linked to a 15% to 75% greater risk of fall injuries.
Not all medications are likely to induce fall injuries. Oestrogens and certain heart medications were not linked and those for the cardiovascular system showed a slightly protective effect.
Test yourself: Are you at risk of developing osteoporosis?
Tips for fall-proofing yourself and your home
The Arthritis Foundation of South Africa suggests the following tips to avoid falling and to make your home more fall-proof:
1. Remove all scatter rugs – they are an invitation to slip and fall.
2. Polished wooden floors or gleaming tiles may look good, but they lead to falls. Consider carpeting, either wall-to-wall or large carpets.
3. Repair uneven or broken paths around your home.
4. If you live in an ‘empty nest’ family home, try downsizing
5. Turn on the light if you get up to visit the toilet in the night.
6. Raise wall light switches to an easy height and ensure lamp and other appliance switches are in easy reach.
7. Wear clothes that won’t tangle round your legs and trip you up.
8. Swop those elegant shoes for flat heels with non-slip soles.
9. Beware of friendly dogs or little children rushing up to greet you - hold onto something for support before they reach you.
10. Use a walking stick whenever you are going out and even for moving around your home. Consider investing in a walker.
11. At the supermarket, trolleys give you something to hang on to.
12. Be very careful on staircases. If out shopping, ask a companion to hold your parcels so your hands are free before you reach the steps. Hold firmly to the hand rail and don’t rush. If one leg is better than the other, use the good leg first going up and the bad leg first coming down.
13. Try to go for walks with a friend. You can hang on to each other, as well as wave your walking sticks at dangerous-looking dogs or people along the way. Mall-walking is the safest and gives you both plenty to look at and chat about.
For more tips on fall-proofing your home, click here.
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This article was originally published in the Autumn 2015 edition of Joint Ability, the official publication of the Arthritis Foundation of South Africa. To visit their website, click here.