Sedatives May Increase Fall Risk

by Lois Etienne on October 22, 2010

in Senior Health and Safety

Question: My 82-year-old mother’s doctor put her on anti-depressants and I’m worried about leaving her alone.  Do you have any suggestion?


Your concern may be justified.  According to an analysis of previous studies reported in a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, older adults who take several types of psychotropic medications such as antidepressants or sedatives appear more likely to experience falls.

Falls are consistently among the leading causes of death and injury for older adults.  Each year, 85 percent of all injury-related hospital admissions and more than 40 percent of nursing home admissions are related to falls, and the annual costs associated with falls and their complications are estimated to be in the billions of dollars worldwide.

Both internal and external risk factors contribute to falls, and medications have previously been implicated in the probability of falling and in the risk of sustaining a fracture.

In the latest analysis, John C. Woolcott, M.A., of the University of British Columbia and Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcomes Sciences, Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 22 previously published studies conducted between 1996 and 2007.

The studies involved 79,081 participants older than 60 years and evaluated nine drug classes.  When the data were pooled and results adjusted for other factors, the use of sedatives and hypnotics, antidepressants and benzodiazepines were significantly associated with the risk of falling in older adults.

“The results of our meta-analysis reiterate the need for caution when prescribing these medications to seniors,” the authors write.

If you have concerns, please ask your mother’s doctor about these medications.  Perhaps her physician can allay your fears, or answer any questions that you have.  In the meantime, why not encourage your mom to get a little extra help at home.  If you can’t be there all the time, a caregiver companion might be a great way to ensure that your mother is safe and secure.

A companion also can help encourage her to stay active and help keep her spirits up.  Home Instead Senior Care hires CAREGivers to go into the homes of seniors and strives to match the interests of CAREGivers with their senior clients.

For more information about In Home Care Services for Alzheimer’s patients, or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling: Spokane: 509.835.5898, North King/Snohomish Counties: 425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties: 253.943.1603. You can also email us at

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