We would never want you to shy away from medications that have been properly prescribed and are improving your health and well being. However, there are several medications that have been identified by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) as increasing the likelihood of seniors falling.
If you're taking any of those medications, which we list below, we highly recommend you discuss it with your doctor or with a geriatrician. They might be able to find safer alternatives which treat your ailment just as well, without increasing your risk of falling.
Medications Linked to Falls
- What They Treat: Commonly used to control epileptic seizures and some Alzheimer's related behaviors.
- Common Types: Depakote, Neurontin
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Dizziness, confusion, sedation
- What They Treat: Medications used to treat depression and anxiety in some cases.
- Common Types: Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Remeron, Wellbutrin, Effexo, Elavil, Pamelor and Trazodone
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Confusion, sedation, psychomotor impairment
- What They Treat: Originally used to control psychotic episodes, increasingly used to treat Alzheimer's related behaviors.
- Common Types: Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Abilify, Haldol
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Dizziness, sedation, blurred vision, imbalance
- What They Treat: Used as a sleeping aid or to help with anxiety.
- Common Types: Ativan, Valium, Restoril, and Xanax
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Imbalance, cognitive impairment, delirium, unsteady gait, psychomotor impairment
- What They Treat: Used as a pain reliever
- Common Types: codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, and methadone
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Dizziness, sedation
- What They Treat: Commonly used to treat sleep difficulties and insomnia
- Common Types: Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Impaired motor system, impaired cognitive performance, sedation, delirium
- What They Treat: This group of drugs block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, causing sedation
- Common Types: Benadryl, Nyquil, Tylenol PM, Ditropan, Detrol, Antivert, Scopace, Phenergan, Vistaril, Paxil
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Blurred vision, sedation, cognitive impairment, hypotension, delirium
- What They Treat: Commonly used to treat allergies
- Common Types: Benadryl, Allegra, Clarinex, Claritin, Dimetane, Tavist, Zyrtec
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Sedation, cognitive impairment, loss of coordination
Blood Pressure Medications
- What They Treat: Used to manage blood pressure
- Common Types: Clonidine, furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, lisinopril, ramipril, enalapril
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Dizziness, light headedness
- What They Treat: Used to treat muscle pain and discomfort
- Common Types: Robaxin, Soma, Flexeril, Skelaxin, Parafon Forte DSC
- Fall Risk Side Effect: Sedation, confusion
What To Do If Your Medications Are Listed
If you or a loved one's medications are listed above, and you've had a fall or you're worried about falling, discuss the issue with your doctor. Sometimes your doctor can try a different medication that treats your ailment just as effectively and other times they can play with the dosages to lessen the negative side effects.
You can also ask your family doctor or geriatrician to perform a fall risk analysis of your medications. The analysis would assign a fall risk score for each of your medications and if the total score is greater than 6, it would determine that you're at a higher risk for a fall, and appropriate measures can be taken.
If you don't have a family doctor, and even if you do, you might want to consider getting or at least consulting with a geriatrician. Geriatricians are fully licensed medical doctors who specialize in the medical issues associated with older patients. They are also very attuned to the side effects of medications. Harvard Medical School's publication Harvard Health states "unfortunately, doctors who are not experienced in caring for older patients may dismiss signs of adverse drug reactions as dementia or depression. A geriatrician has the specialized expertise to evaluate an individual's medications and recommend changing or stopping certain drugs to avoid potential problems."
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