Anti-Depressants Linked with Risk of Falls

Along with the arrival of Autumn, ever shortening days and lack of natural daylight can also usher in a season that can cause depression.  Many adults who live a distance away from the equator suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or winter depression.  And older adults who live alone can be particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness which can also lead to mood disorders.

Along with exercise, light therapy, psychotherapy and vitamin D supplements, medication is sometimes used to treat SAD.  However, recent studies have found a link between the use of anti-depressants among the elderly and an increased risk of falls.

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, nursing home residents using antidepressants were at an increased risk of falls.   New users of the drugs had higher rates of falls during the initial days of drug therapy.

A study at Harvard Medical School found the increased risk of falls comes within the first four days of a prescription increase or new prescription.  Risk is greatest two days after a medication change and patients should be carefully monitored during this time.

As a result of these studies, caregivers should be extra vigilant in working to help prevent falls in older adults.   Falls are the leading cause of injury in people over the age of 65 and are as serious a threat to the health of seniors as stroke and heart attacks.

Fall Prevention Tips

  • Create a clutter free environment avoiding tripping hazards such as loose cords
  • Remove unsecured throw rugs
  • Provide good lighting in hallways, entry ways and bathrooms
  • Install grab bars in bathrooms
  • Install handrails on stairs
  • Wear flat, well fitted shoes that make good floor contact
  • Take care of any vision problems
  • Maintain balance and muscle strength with regular exercise like tai chi

For those with a history of falls or to provide increased confidence, consider wearing hip protectors 24/7 to protect hips from the injuries that may occur in the event of a fall.

To learn more about fall prevention among the elderly, check out The Oldish’s Home Safety Videos in the Toolkit. Free membership will give access to all videos and checklists.