For many seniors, taking multiple medications to keep chronic conditions in check is just part of the daily routine. But some medications — or combinations of medications — could put you at an additional risk for falls.
- There are a number of reasons why a medication might impact your likelihood for falling: Some drugs have side effects, and may make you feel dizzy, confused or otherwise less able to prevent a fall.
- Taking two or more drugs could lead to an interaction that produces undesirable side effects.
- Not following the doctor’s orders, like forgetting doses or getting confused by a complicated regimen, can also lead to problems.
Medication Situations to Watch For
Additionally, some situations cause greater concerns for falls. For example:
- Taking four or more medications that are either prescribed or received over-the-counter, including herbal remedies, pain relievers, vitamins, and dietary supplements: The more medications you take, the more likely it may be that you experience drug interactions and/or side effects that can increase your risk of falling. These side effects may make you lose your balance, become drowsy, blur your vision and make you feel weak or dizzy. Over-the-counter products may also interact with prescription medicines and increase the risk of side effects, which can also increase your chances of falling.
- Taking medication for high blood pressure: High blood pressure medications can make you feel light-headed or dizzy when you first stand up from a chair, or when you get up out of bed in the morning. This is called “postural hypotension.”
- Drinking alcohol: When mixed with medicines, even a little bit of alcohol can make you feel drowsy and dizzy and increase your risk of falling.
What You Can Do
You can take steps to mitigate the risks medications may have on your likelihood of falling. Begin with these:
1. Keep a complete, dated list of the medications you take and bring it to your doctor for a “medication checkup.” Remember that medications include the prescriptions you get from your doctor, as well as those non-prescriptions drugs, pain relievers, herbal remedies and other treatments you get at the pharmacy or market.
2. Report any new symptoms to your doctor right away. Your doctor can will help you decide if the symptoms are side effects caused by the medication or if they are something else you should look into.
3. Always take medications as directed. It’s easier to keep track of your medications (which ones to take and exactly when to take them) if you use a medicine organizer, a medicine dispenser, or ask your pharmacist to dispense your medications in a blister pack.
4. Combine all your prescriptions with a single pharmacy. This will allow your pharmacist to more easily review your medications and communicate any concerns he may have with your doctors. Together, they might decide to try changing one or more of your medications, dosages, etc.
Understanding how your medications might affect your risk of falling and taking specific steps to help you mitigate any potential issues are great steps to keeping yourself safe. Also, considering a medical alert device in case a fall or other emergency occurs will help give you the peace of mind to live confidently.