The changes in the body throughout ageing may result in the need to take more medications and can also cause the body to be more responsive to the medications already taken. This can signify a need to reduce or change the types of medicines consumed.
As a result of the potential impact that medication consumption can have on an individual’s falls risk, all prescriptions should be individualised and frequently reviewed.
Assessment of the risks and benefits of medication is critical, particularly among older adults, for the following reasons:
- Ageing can contribute to an individual’s metabolism slowing down, which can result in medicines staying in the body for longer
- All medicines have potential side effects, which can increase as more medicines are consumed
- If medicines are not taken as prescribed or are combined with other medications, the individual can react differently from how initially intended
- Long-term use of medicines such as sleeping pills can increase an individual’s overall health risk and risk of falling
Common medication side effects that can increase falls risk
- Dizziness, light-headedness or fainting
- Feeling unsteady
- Blurred or double vision
- Memory problems
Taking multiple medications increases the likelihood of adverse effects and interactions. Older adults who take five or more medications each day are at an increased risk of falling.
Watch the Check Your Medicines with Nancy animation or learn about the importance of Checking Your Medicines to Improve Your Health with Peter, a retired pharmacist.
How can I assist older adults to manage their medicines?
Managing medicines appropriately can be a simple and easy way to reduce side effects and the risk of falling among older adults. Behaviours that older adults can enact to manage their medicines effectively include:
- Keep an up-to-date list of their medicines. Note the use-by date and the reason why they are taken.
- Book a medicine check or a home medicine review with their GP or Pharmacist
- If sleeping tablets have been taken for longer than two weeks, a GP should be consulted with about a gradual reduction plan
- Do not share medicines with others. Mixing medicines can increase side effects.
- Ask their Pharmacist to organise the medicines into a dosage administration aid or Webster Pack, so it is easier to identify which medications should be taken and when
- Pay attention to how your body and mind feel. If they notice any changes such as feeling dizzy, drowsy, depressed, or in pain, older adults should speak to their GP.
Medication management tools
Dose administration aids
A dose administration aid, such as a Webster-pack or pillbox, can be set up by a pharmacist for a small fee and is a simple way to manage medicines. Dose administration aids include details of all the medication inside and when and how often each medicine needs to be taken.
The Stay On Your Feet® Medicine List is available free of charge in various formats and is a helpful way to track medicines. It is a good idea for older adults to have multiple copies of the list (i.e. a copy with a family member, a copy at home, and a copy with them) for medical appointments or in case of an emergency. Older adults can also ask their pharmacist for an information sheet on their medicines to take to health appointments.
A MedsCheck involves an in-pharmacy review of an individual’s medicines. Older adults who take multiple medicines, or take medicines to help them sleep, should be advised to visit their doctor or pharmacist for a medication check or review.
Home Medicine Reviews
Doctors may be able to provide a referral for a free home medicines review. This involves a consultant pharmacist visiting the older adult’s home to conduct a medicine check, discuss any concerns, and report to the doctor.
Medications Risk Assessment Form
Older adults can complete a Medications Risk Assessment Form (page 80) and take to their GP to discuss if they require a medication review.