Falls are the leading cause of injuries for people 65 and older. Injuries include, but are not limited to, joint sprains, dislocation of a shoulder and/or hip and fractures of bones. A fall can also be responsible for back, spinal cord and head/brain injuries. Once a person experiences a fall, it can limit mobility and independence, which will decrease the ability to perform everyday tasks.
Use of prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medication, and herbal supplements can increase the risk of falls by causing side effects that affect balance. These medications may alone or in combination cause dizziness, drowsiness, confusion and blurred vision. In addition a diminished capacity to respond to a fall due to age or physical impairments increase the chances for a fall.
“All medications have side effects some that will directly increase the risk for falls. Being aware and understanding the risks associated with taking these medications is a crucial step to avoid falls. For the general and especially in our older population who may be on more than one medication this awareness should be paramount,” states David Castro, Director of Pharmacy at Weslaco Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.
“Every person is unique and will not experience drug side effects in the same way if they experience them at all. It is important to be educated on any and all medications that you are prescribed and that is where a good dialogue with your pharmacist and physician can help. Gather the information on your medications in a written and/or verbal form from your pharmacy/pharmacist/physician and update with each visit. Keep the pharmacy number handy to call and discuss any changes or issues that you are experiencing and you suspect are being caused by your medication(s). Finally, continue this discussion with each visit to your primary care physician to complete the process. Being informed, educated and vigilant can help individuals stay aware of problems and help to decrease their risk of falling.”
If you are aware that a medication or supplement is known to cause or causes light-headedness or dizziness for you determine ahead of time, before you rise from a chair or bed, to exercise caution to get up and down slowly to adjust for the side effects mentioned. The use of a cane or walker if available will also reduce the risk of falls as they will provide stability and support.
In summary here are the takeaways:
- Review all medications and supplements that you are currently taking with your physician and pharmacist
- When there are any changes in your medications or you add a supplement revisit the topic again with your physician and pharmacist
- Educate yourself on the side effects and possible interactions in the medications you are currently taking
- Inquire with your physician, during your visit, if there are any medications that you no longer need to take or if your condition(s) have improved that the dosage of any medication(s) can be reduced
- Keep a current list of all the medications/supplements that you are taking and update as needed
- Include family or a friend in the discussion about your medications so that someone can be your advocate if you are unable to
Plan your medication usage using daily storage containers but never prepare more than 7 days
Being aware of and managing medication side effects will go a long way in fall prevention. This all starts with the appropriate use of medications, education and taking accountability for your health and wellbeing.
By David M Castro, R.Ph.,MBA, Director of Pharmacy at WRRH
To learn more about medication usage and fall prevention, call Weslaco Regional Rehabilitation Hospital at 956-969-2222.
Weslaco Regional Rehabilitation Hospital is a 32-bed, free-standing rehabilitation hospital that provides intensive physical rehabilitation services to patients recovering from strokes, brain, spinal cord, and orthopedic injuries, and other impairments as a result of injuries or illnesses. The hospital treats more than 600 patients annually from Mid-Valley and its surrounding areas. For more information, visit WRRH.ernesthealth.com.
906 S. James St. • Weslaco, TX 78596• (P) 956-969-2222 • (F) 956-969-2221 • WRRH.ernesthealth.com