The side effects of certain medications, or taking more than 4 medicines at a time, can make you more at risk of falling. Learning to manage your medication well and understanding how they affect you are an important part of falls prevention.
It's unclear why taking a number of medications increases our risk of falling. In some cases, it may be because of the underlying conditions rather than the drugs themselves.
What can I do?
Learn about your medication
When your GP prescribes you medicine, ask them questions about:
- when to take them
- what you should and shouldn’t take them with – such as alcohol or food
- any side effects, both on its own or in combination with any other medication you're taking
Read the written instructions that accompany your medication, and keep in one place – in a drawer or folder – so that you know where to find them. You can also find information about prescription medication using the electronic Medicines Compendium.
Side effects linked to falls include:
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- unsteadiness on your feet
- blurred or double vision
- difficulty thinking clearly
The following medicines commonly cause side effects that can increase the risk of a fall:
- drugs for psychosis and agitation
- sleeping tablets and sedatives
- anticonvulsants (medication for epilepsy)
- blood pressure lowering medications
Organising and planning
Creating a plan is especially important if you take different kinds of medication. A plan will help you develop a routine and identify times when you're at an increased risk of a fall.
To create a medication plan:
- List all of your medication, how often you to take them, what they're for and any side effects you experience.
- Using this list, plan out what medication you need to take each day and when.
- Keep a copy of your plan with you at all times and share it with your GP and pharmacist.
Your GP will review your medication regularly to make sure you still need them and that the dose is correct. If your medication changes, remember to update your planner.
If you’re taking a number of medications, pill organisers or 'Dosette' type boxes can be helpful. You can fill it yourself, or with assistance from family and carers. They have separate compartments for the days of the week or times of day, helping you to take your medication on the right day at the right time.
Speak to your local pharmacist for more information.
Taking your medication
When taking medication, you should always:
- take it at right time of day and at the dose recommended by your GP
- check the instructions, or your planner, to make sure you're taking it properly. Some medicines should only be taken before a meal, or with water or food
- use your own supply and never take medication prescribed for someone else
It's important to let your GP or pharmacist know if you experience any side effects as they may want to change the dose or try a different medicine for you.
Mixing alcohol with some medications can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness or loss of coordination, and make the medicine less effective. This increases your risk of having a fall and so it's always a good idea to check with your GP or pharmacist first if you plan to drink alcohol with your medication.
Before taking any over-the-counter medication, or supplements, that you can buy without a prescription, it's important to check with your pharmacist as sometimes these can effect other medication you're taking.
Where to start
Think about how you currently manage your medicines:
- what positive things do you already do to mange your medications?
- what changes can you make that might help?
- how will you make these changes?
- who do you need to talk to?
If you'd prefer to use a smartphone, or tablet, to manage your medication, Care 4 Today is a health management app that's been reviewed by clinicians to ensure that it's safe.
Download Care 4 Today from the Google Play or App Store