Those little rescue buttons are a great asset and several of the older people I know either have one or a parent still in the home does.
The older we get, the more fragile our bodies can become. Sometimes it’s because of a disease process that accompanies the senior years such as osteoporosis, or a result of a lifetime of hard work in careers that are unforgiving to the body, such as construction or other skilled labor trades.
Unfortunately, another dynamic unfolds with the later years and can also be the result of a disease process or injury, but could also be caused by the very medications needed to alleviate symptoms of those complications in the first place: increased risk of falling.
As we age, our bodies simply don’t work as efficiently or recover as quickly as they once did. The leading cause of injury and fatalities in people over the age of 65 isn’t even cancer- it’s falling. Well over a quarter of a million American seniors saw hip fractures alone in 2010. That doesn’t even factor in head, arm, leg, and spine injuries.
Weakened muscles after a stay in the hospital or damaged joints put seniors at elevated risk of falling, and many times there are several other risk factors involved in a person’s level of risk for a fall.
Some, like the march of time, are factors we can’t control. To be sure, with healthy living the march can be slowed significantly, but never stopped. This is the natural order of things.
But other risk factors, such as general mobility, have smaller sub-factors that have some level of control, whether for ourselves or our adult children who care for us. These include how accessible the living environment is, how clean it is, and what kinds of assistive aids are available for use with mobility.
Power chairs are a great modification of how people get around, and those cool grabby arms that help a person pick something up off the floor to eliminate bending.
But what about medications? Pharmacists advise that if you are taking more than four prescription medications at a time, your risk of falling increases significantly over peers who take less than 4.
The biggest offenders are the medications that cause drowsiness or dizziness. These side effects are very often printed on little yellow, orange, or blue stickers on the prescription bottles, and also included in the information sheet that comes with the medicine. Do you read your info sheets thoroughly?
Do you know how many of your maintenance or acute illness medications carry such a warning? You should. Knowing which medicines are the biggest risk-inducers can be the difference in staying on your feet (or upright in a chair) or getting dizzy and collapsing.
Medications for blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety and depression are the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals out there today (as evidenced by the onslaught of relentless advertising), with erectile dysfunction medicine rounding out the top five.
These are also the medications that dominate the list of most likely to contribute to falls in people who take them. The only other class of medication that also shows up is for seizure disorders, but it isn’t as commonly prescribed.
There is no doubt that some medications are necessary for keeping some conditions from being fatal, but there is also no doubt that we, as a society, over-medicate to a dangerous and deadly level.
The littlest thing goes wrong and most Westernized healthcare consumers and providers reach immediately for a pill. It’s the ‘quick fix.’ But it can come at a great cost, especially when you are trying to quickly fix several conditions all at the same time with a cocktail of fall-causing pharmaceuticals.
The best thing to do if you are taking multiple medications or any from the above listed groups is to talk to your doctor openly and honestly about your wishes for resolving health concerns naturally. Not everything always can be, but it is always worth giving it a good try.
Sometimes even just reducing the dosage of the offending medications will help to reduce the risk. This would be solely up to the health care provider to determine as far as if it is appropriate and safe. Your goals and concerns are what he or she would use in determining appropriateness.
To stay in this line of thought, I would offer one cautionary point. Your health is your responsibility, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to get off certain risky medications. There is, however, something wrong with taking that decision into your own hands and not involving the doctor.
Because don’t forget- going off a medication cold turkey ALSO can cause dizziness and fainting, resulting in a fall. Let your doctor help guide your elimination of the medicines you don’t want and together you can work as a team to get you to the best possible health naturally.