A study published last month in Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety (PDS) reports that in a study of more than 370,000 deaths between 1999 and 2017, the use of fall-risk increasing drugs, and deaths due to falls, are on the rise. Furthermore, the percent of people receiving at least one prescription for a fall risk-increasing drug went from 57% in 1999 to 94% in 2017.
The take-away from the study is clear: doctors are prescribing more drugs, especially antidepressants and antihypertensives, that increase the risk that the person taking them will fall. Indeed, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants rose 4x over the 18 years of the study. The study also found that Black women were more likely than men to be prescribed fall-risk-increasing drugs, while White women, aged 85 and older, were the group with the most significant increase in deaths from falls – an increase of 160% between 1999 and 2017.
What is promoting drugs making seniors fall down and die?
The CDC says that fall injuries among seniors added almost $50 billion in medical costs each year, of which Medicare and Medicaid pay 75%. Among people age 65 and older, 3 million people each year are hospitalized because of a head injury or hip fracture, and 300,000 are hospitalized with hip fractures alone, 95% of which are caused by falling – usually sideways. Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Considering how dangerous falls are and how falling appears to be on the rise, what can people do about it? The CDC recommends four things:
· Talk to your doctor. Review the medicines someone is taking to see if they may be contributing to sleepiness or dizziness. Also, ask your doctor about Vitamin D supplements.
· Do strength and balance exercises. Prevention is the best medicine!
· Have your eyes checked. Get a check-up at least once a year.
· Make your home safer. Add grab bars to tubs and toilets. Put railings on both sides of the stairs. Add light to dimly lit areas.
The Washington Post also recommends that seniors wear electronic pendants that can be buzzed for help if needed, which is undoubtedly a good idea for people at risk of falling, whether they are in a nursing home or living independently at home.
Don’t let your loved one become a statistic. Take precautions and be aware that falling is always an imminent danger. Be safe, not sorry.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse, nursing home abuse and wrongful death cases in California. For further information, please contact York Law Firm today.