Falls are a leading cause of injury for nursing home residents, and the consequences can be life-threatening. Many elderly residents are prone to serious fall-related complications, including broken bones, bruises, and brain injury. Even a fear of falling can harm a resident’s quality of life, causing them to limit their mobility and lose muscle tone or balance.
Several classes of medications have already been shown to increase the risk for falls, including sedatives and antidepressants. New research shows that diuretics, or water pills, can also increase fall risk because they cause dizziness and dehydration. Although it has long been suspected that the use of diuretics contributes to falls, this study is one of the first to conclusively show a causal link. Researchers studied more than 1,000 nursing home residents at the Boston-based Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, all over the age of 60. Results showed that residents who received a new prescription for a diuretic or whose diuretic dosage increased were more than twice as likely to fall within one day of receiving their new prescriptions. Residents using loop diuretics, which increase calcium excretion, were most at risk,
This data shows the importance of implementing fall prevention measures in nursing homes. Surveillance should be increased for at least 2 days following a change in diuretics. Residents should also be instructed to take the medication during the day, because fall risk is elevated at night. Loved ones place a great deal of trust in nursing homes and expect that safety of residents is always a priority. Medications that increase fall risk should be accompanied by increased surveillance and safety measures.