I have talked previously about medication issues – especially non-compliance with medication instructions – as a very serious problem for many seniors. The Virginia Center on Aging at Virginia Commonwealth University recently published a study on “Medications as a Risk Factor in Falls by Older Adults with and without Intellectual Disabilities“.
This is an extremely important topic. As the study points out, “The consensus from research is that about 30-40% of community-dwelling adults ages 65+ have fallen in the past year, increasing to about half of those age 80 and above.” So, falls are a far too frequent occurrence for seniors – and a serious danger.
The risk factors for senior falls “are clinically identified as either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic factors refer to characteristics or conditions of the individual, such as vision, gait, and health history. Extrinsic factors refer to conditions outside the individual, such as environmental hazards but also medications taken by the individual, brought into the body, that others may have prescribed.” By way of an aside, in our experience, it is often not the medications seniors do take. It is often the prescribed meds they do not take.
In addition, much of the risk is centered on folks who Dr. Steven Fox calls “medically complex seniors.” These are the elders with multiple chronic conditions, creating “geriatric syndromes.” The study from VCU puts it like this:
Older adults may be at greater risk of falling because they may have multiple chronic conditions like high blood pressure, arthritis, sleep problems, etc., for which medications are prescribed; moreover, there are likely multiple prescribers involved who may or may not know what others are prescribing for the older adult. The older adult may be taking multiple medications, both prescribed and over-the counter, and there may be a significant mix of medications being taken. This mix may lead to unintended consequences, including lessened or heightened therapeutic results or adverse drug events.
The issue of multiple doctors prescribing medications is a huge factor. That is why our Director of Nursing at Support For Home Health Care oversees a program of Assisted Medication Management, to ensure that medication is coordinated, doctors are aware of what others are doing, and so forth. As the study puts it, in incredible understatement, “it is prudent to take steps to ensure that medications are both appropriate and taken correctly.”
If you recognize this issue for yourself or a loved one, please take it seriously. If you need help from a Geriatric Care Manager to get medications coordinated and monitored, please make it happen. Medication non-compliance – and not understanding how meds can affect fall risks – is absolutely critical.
Best wishes. Bert