May 29th, 2010 at 1:01 am
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Elders and Falls: Irregular Medication Increases Risk

by Carol Bursack

Most of us know that some medications can cause dizziness, which in turn can cause a fall. Some blood pressure medications can lower the blood pressure too quickly, and a person take a tumble. However a recent edition  of Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Science ran an article titled, “Irregular Medication Use Puts Seniors at Risk for Falling,”  that has brought another medication issue into the spotlight – not taking the medications as prescribed.

The article states that, ‘”Older adults increase their chances of falling by not taking their medications as directed… Falls can now be added to the growing list of poor health outcomes associated with non-adherence to medication.’”

Falls are scary. You don’t have to be “old” to be afraid of a fall. A 40-year-old reporter friend of mine slipped on a tiny patch of ice while out walking his dog. He broke his wrist. Another friend was taking a new blood pressure medication which has the side effect of making one dizzy. He fell in his home and was badly hurt.

A common side effect of many medications is dizziness. Was this person’s medication the culprit? It’s not clear, but it’s possible. So do we avoid medications? No, we look for the one we need that has the fewest side effects for us. Then, we try to take the medications as prescribed.

Take the medication as prescribed – that is essential. This new study points that out very clearly. The researchers found that not sticking to the recommended schedule of taking some medications increases the risk of falls in the elderly. Nearly any one of us can quickly tick off the names of elders we know who concern us as to how regular they are in taking medications.

There are many ingenious pill reminders on the market. All one has to do is type “medication  reminder” into a  browser to pull up a list. The Alzheimer’s Store is one place that has a good selection of these items.

However, reminders don’t always work. One has to be alert enough to know what the reminder is there for. One has to have good hearing if the alert is a sound. One has to, well, have abilities that often are lost as we age.

Before my mother went into a nursing home, I used to set up medications for her in the typical “morning, noon, evening” boxes. However, for the most part, she’d only remember to take them if I was there to remind her.

When my mother-in-law had an infection, I put her antibiotics in a similar pill box. Since I always visited her at noon, I would check the container during the visit. I found that she would move the pills about at random, so I’d have no idea of whether or not she’d taken her pill the evening before or even how many she had taken that morning. It’s a wonder she didn’t poison herself, but we got through it. She soon entered the same nursing home as my parents.

Older people often take quite a few medications. Many of these are literally life savers. But these medications are powerful. They are meant to be taking in prescribed doses at regular times. When they are taken improperly, it’s not surprising that the consequences can be dire. A fall for an elder frequently means a broken hip. For an aged person, a broken hip often leads to death within weeks or months.

What to do? We do our best. It’s obvious, however, that not taking medications as they are prescribed is a scary health issue with our increasingly aging population. We need to be as vigilant as we can when we are supervising our elders meds.

Posted in Caregiving, Health, Medication | 1 Comment »
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One Response to “Elders and Falls: Irregular Medication Increases Risk”

  1. Hi Alan,
    There is a lot of technology that is helping elders with this. Thanks so much for your comments and the information.
    Carol

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