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Age Safe® America
Since 2015 a national membership, training, advocacy and services organization.
The purpose of the Age Safe® Pharmacy program is to encourage seniors and family caregivers to educate and inform themselves on what is known about medications and fall risk, and participate with their physicians, pharmacist, healthcare practitioners and providers.
Every second in the United States, an older adult falls, making falls the #1 cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans. In fact, more than 1 in 4 older people fall each year. Falls often lead to hospitalizations, hip fractures and other significant injuries, and loss of independence leading to nursing home admission. Falls and resulting injuries are one of the most significant risks for older adults. Falls among the elderly have become epidemic in America and many in the public health community view senior fall statistics as a significant health concern. The good news is that many falls can be prevented.
Proper medication adherence is one of the main factors that threatens safety among older adults. Pharmacists can play an important role in helping to ensure compliance with prescribed medications, and reviewing possible interactions and side effects. This can help seniors choosing to age in place to maintain their health, independence and quality of life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends older adults do the following four things to prevent falls:
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines.
- Begin an exercise program to improve leg strength and balance.
- Get annual eye check-ups and update your glasses.
- Make your home safer.
What Conditions Make You More Likely to Fall?
Research has identified many conditions that contribute to falling. These are called risk factors. Many risk factors can be changed or modified to help prevent falls. They include:
- Lower body weakness
- Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
- Difficulties with walking and balance
- Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
- Vision problems
- Foot pain or poor footwear
- Home hazards or obvious dangers such as
- broken or uneven steps, clutter and
- throw rugs that can be tripped over.
The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling. Healthcare providers can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing their fall risk factors listed above.
The side effects of some medicines – such as dizziness, lightheadedness, unsteadiness, drowsiness, blurred or double vision and difficulty thinking clearly, and taking more than 4 medicines at the same time, can increase your chance of falling. Side effects can vary from person to person depending on their age, weight, gender, ethnicity and general health, so it’s important that you know and understand how your medication affects you to prevent falls occurring.
Harvard Health Publishing: “Medications that increase your risk of falling”
Many drugs can increase the risk of falls. The more drugs you take, the greater the chance that one or a combination of them will make a fall more likely to happen. Some medications are well known for side effects that increase a person’s risk of falling. Medications that suppress the central nervous system are among those most likely to contribute to falling, as they reduce alertness and cause slower reactions and movements. These include: Anti-anxiety drugs, such as diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan) Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), an older antihistamine. Read More.
According to a University of Buffalo (UB) research study, nearly every older adult was prescribed a prescription drug that increased their risk of falling in 2017. The study found that the percentage of adults 65 and older who were prescribed a fall-risk-increasing drug climbed to 94% in 2017, a significant leap from 57% in 1999. The research also revealed that the rate of death caused by falls in older adults more than doubled during the same time period. “Our study indicates two trends increasing concurrently at a population level that should be examined at the individual level. Our hope is it will start more conversations on health care teams about the pros and cons of medications prescribed for vulnerable populations,” says
Amy Shaver, postdoctoral associate School of Public Health and Health Professions University of Buffalo
Clashing medications can put older adults at risk. A new poll shows the majority of older adults who take multiple medications have never had a comprehensive medication review. The poll found that most people over 50 haven’t connected with a pharmacist to check for safety concerns or potential clashes among their prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, and supplements, or the potential to save money by switching to lower-cost options. Two-thirds of older adults rely on at least two prescription drugs, and more than half take two or more non-prescription drugs or supplements. And two in ten take five or more prescription drugs. Some of those pills, capsules and tablets may interact with one another in ways that could put them at risk.
“These results show the importance of continuing efforts by physicians, pharmacists, other health care providers, insurers and policymakers to help older adults understand the importance of medication reviews,” says Antoinette B. Coe, Pharm.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy.
How Can a Pharmacist Help?
A pharmacist can answer many of your questions about prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs. Try to have all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy so your records are in one place. This will help alert the pharmacist if a new drug might cause a problem with something else you are taking. If you’re not able to use just one pharmacy, show the pharmacist at each pharmacy your list of medicines and over-the-counter drugs when you drop off your prescription.
When you have a prescription filled:
- Tell the pharmacist if you have trouble swallowing pills. There may be liquid medicine available. Do not chew, break, or crush tablets without first finding out if the drug will still work.
- Make sure you can read and understand the name of the medicine as well as the directions on the container and on the color-coded warning stickers on the bottle. If the label is hard to read, ask your pharmacist to use larger type.
- Check that you can open the container. If not, ask the pharmacist to put your medicines in bottles that are easier to open.
- Ask about special instructions on where to store a medicine. For example, should it be kept in the refrigerator or in a dry place?
- Check the label on your medicine before leaving the pharmacy. It should have your name on it and the directions given by your doctor. If it doesn’t, don’t take it, and talk with the pharmacist.
Check the label to ensure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. Make sure your doctor and pharmacist have an up-to-date list of your allergies so they don’t give you a medicine that contains something you are allergic to.
Learn how to read a prescription label in the free booklet Safe Use of Medicines: Take Your Medicines the Right Way—Each Day! Learn about medicine safety. Remember to take your medicines the right way and share this information with family and friends.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about the written information that comes with your prescription.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About a New Medicine
- What is the name of the medicine and why am I taking it?
- What medical condition does this medicine treat?
- How many times a day should I take it? At what time(s)? If the bottle says take “4 times a day,” does that mean 4 times in 24 hours or 4 times during the daytime?
- How much medicine should I take?
- Should I take the medicine with food or not? Is there anything I should not eat or drink when taking this medicine?
- How long will it take this medicine to work?
- Will this medicine cause problems if I am taking other medicines?
- Is it safe for me to drive while taking this medication?
- What does “as needed” mean?
- When should I stop taking the medicine?
- If I forget to take my medicine, what should I do?
- What side effects can I expect? What should I do if I have a problem?
- Will I need a refill? How do I arrange that?
Each time you visit your doctor, tell him or her about new medicines you’re taking, and be sure to ask if you still need to be on all your medications.
This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA).
MORE TOPICS AND RESOURCES COMING:
Medications and Traveling
Generic or Brand Name–What’s the Difference?
Keeping Track of Your Medicines
Taking Medicines Safely
Can I Get Addicted to Pain Medicine?
Paying for Medications
The material presented on this page is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or take the place of medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other healthcare provider. Always consult your healthcare provider about your medications, symptoms, health problems and solutions. Neither Age Safe America, LLC nor its officers, partners or affiliates provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment; or legal, financial or any other professional services advice. Nothing contained on this page or this website is or should be considered or used as a substitute for professional, legal, financial or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We urge you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a health or medical condition. In case of emergency, please call your doctor or 911 immediately.