HealthONE - April 06, 2021

Did you know that medications are one of the most common causes of increased fall risk in older adults?

Medication dosages, possible side effects, and medication effectiveness, are generally determined by studies done in relatively young, healthy people. Because our bodies and how we process medications change with age this may cause our bodies to react to drugs differently than when we were younger.

The aging process can affect how the medication is absorbed and utilized in the body. Changes that decrease your body’s ability to break down or remove certain medications from your system may mean that medications can stay in your body longer. 

Taking multiple medications can also affect how medications work in the body. Drug interactions happen when two or more medicines react with each other to cause unwanted effects.  In this issue we will show you how proper medication management can reduce interactions and side effects that may lead to falls.

What questions should I ask my doctor or pharmacist about my medications?

  • What is this medicine for?
  • What does this medicine do? What results can I expect?
  • What are the side effects I might experience with this medication?
  • Is this medication safe to take with my other medications, vitamins and supplements?
  • When do I take it?
  • Do I take this with food or on an empty stomach?
  • How long will I have to take this medication?
  • Are there things I need to avoid doing while taking this medication?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?

Ask a Pharmacist

Question: Why is a pharmacist important to my overall health?

Answer: Pharmacists are well-versed in pharmacology, which is the branch of medicine that focuses on the uses and effects of drugs. Pharmacists understand the therapeutic roles of drugs and drug side effects and interactions with other drugs. Your pharmacist can help monitor these factors and which foods and activities can have an effect on your medications.


Question: What if medications make me too sleepy?

Answer: There are several prescription and over-the-counter medications that can make you drowsy, which can lead to issues with balance and falls. First and foremost, clarify with your primary care provider or pharmacist to see if your sedating medication(s) are necessary and that there are no other alternatives that may be less sedating.  Second, because some of these medications can affect reaction times and other attention issues you should avoid activities such as driving.  Dosing schedules are important when trying to avoid daytime drowsiness caused by certain medications. Clarify with your provider the time of day your medication should be taken.

Question: Why do some medications affect my bathroom habits?

Answer: People are typically on diuretics if their blood pressure is high or they have congestive heart failure. A diuretic medication removes fluid from the body, which helps reduce blood pressure.  This can lead to frequent urination.  Diarrhea is another common side effect of many medications. Antacids with magnesium, antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) medications are some of the most common medicines that induce loose, watery stools.

Question: Does it really matter what time of day I take my medications?

Answer: Yes, a dosing schedule is important. Every medication that you

 take has a specific dosing schedule — once a day, three times a day, etc.

 You should try to take your medication at the same time every day for

 the most beneficial and consistent effect of that medication.

 If the medication is discontinued by the doctor, that needs to be noted

 and followed.