Surprising Ways Medication Can Cause Falls in Seniors

By Eric Carter

While medications can help alleviate symptoms for a variety of ailments, they can also cause some adverse reactions — some of which may lead to dangerous falls. Seniors are already at a higher risk of falling than younger adults. And because health conditions seem to pile on as we get older, seniors also take more medication than younger adults as well. This can result in the perfect storm for a fall. However, medications can often be adjusted easily and there are easy medication management measures that can help reduce the risk of falls in aging loved ones.Here are some surprising ways that medication can affect seniors and how medication management can help keep them safe from falling.

How Medication Can Lead to Falls

There are a number of different medications out there, and they can affect individuals differently depending on their health condition. However, we’ve broken down medications that could contribute to falls based on how they affect the body.

1. Medications can affect the brain.

A class of medications known as “psychoactives” affect brain function. While alcohol and caffeine are technically considered psychoactive drugs, there are some drugs much more powerful that can impact the mind, including the date-rape drug Rohypnol.

Psychoactive drugs are commonly used to help manage behavioral and psychological symptoms that result from aging or from dementia. They include stimulants and depressants to help individuals stabilize their mood. These types of drugs can cause drowsiness and affect cognitive function, which can cause a senior to fall more easily.

In more extreme cases, psychoactive drugs can cause hallucinations, erratic behavior, and can severely impede critical thinking. Impaired thinking or judgement could cause a senior to trip more easily. Their depth perception could be affected as well, causing them to stumble over objects or furniture as they walk.

2. Medication can affect blood pressure.

Other medications can result in a drop in blood pressure, which can cause a senior to feel dizzy or lightheaded and lose their balance. This feeling may especially occur when seniors get up from sitting. Seniors may take this type of medication to help with high blood pressure or other health conditions. This occurs because the brain is not getting enough oxygen, causing you to feel dizzy or even faint.

Medications that may have this affect include water pills, alpha or beta blockers, Parkinson’s medications, some antidepressants, and others.

3. Medication can lower blood sugar.

Additionally, medications can lower blood sugar. Seniors with diabetes should be especially careful since they most likely take medications to manage their blood sugar. 

Low blood sugar can lead to dizziness, weakness, and lightheadedness. This is because the body needs energy, and sugar in the blood is how that energy is delivered. Low blood pressure can also lead to muddled thinking, loss of balance, loss of consciousness, problems with vision, and other symptoms that can put seniors at a high risk of falling.

How Medication Management Can Help

Medication management is a form of senior care services that involves medication reminders to help seniors take the proper medications in the right dosage and at the right time. A simple form of medication management could include a pill organizer. However, this may not be an enough to manage an aging loved one’s medication. In these cases, professional services may be required to help assist a senior. More involved services could include monitoring for symptoms or checking vital signs at regular intervals to ensure a senior’s safety.

Here are some of the ways that medication management can help seniors reduce their chance of falling.

Catch Symptoms Early

Medication management can help catch symptoms early so that seniors can switch to a new medication as needed. Symptoms will range depending on the medication and a senior’s overall health. But watch and note behaviors and health effects that are out of the ordinary, like confusion or dizziness.

If you’re receiving care with Caring Senior Service, our caregivers can note these symptoms within our care portal Tendio, which makes it easy to share the insight with your loved one’s medical provider. 

Keep an Eye on Polypharmacy

Polypharmacy refers to the use of multiple medications. While taking a few prescription drugs simultaneously may not be an issue, taking many medications, usually 9 or more, can cause adverse reactions as medications interact with each other.

Medication management can help identify levels polypharmacy among seniors and share the medication lists with medical providers. Some doctors may not know that a senior is taking other medications for different conditions. For example, the heart doctor may not know what medications a geriatric doctor has prescribed. Keeping track of all medications can help inform doctors and prevent negative reactions between medications.

Stick to a Schedule

All medications, either over-the-counter or prescription drugs, have instructions that should be carefully adhered to. Medication management ensures that seniors take their medication on schedule and don’t overdose, which can have serious affects and even be fatal. Likewise, it ensures that they don’t go too long between taking their medications either, which can have similar bad effects.

A medication schedule and appropriate reminders can help seniors get into a routine and stick to it to help them properly manage their health.

Medication Management for You or a Loved One

Medication management can help you or a loved one remain healthy, happy, and at home as it can reduce the risk of falls and other health complications. Caring Senior Service offers medication management services as part of our in-home senior care. Our caregivers are specially trained to assist seniors and our technology makes it easy to track medications and schedules. We also have a Fall Prevention Specialty Program, which helps us keep a close eye on seniors who are at a high risk of falling. Reach out to our team of professionals to discover how this care can help you or a loved one age safely in place.

Caregiver helping a senior man stand up

Tags: Fall Prevention