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City of Armadale combat falls through education

The City of Armadale in partnership with Injury Matters are working to raise awareness of the impact of medication on falls in older residents as part of the current Stay On Your Feet® Check Your Medicines campaign. The campaign focuses on the importance of good medication management as a strategy to reduce falls amongst older adults.

The City of Armadale has over 9000 residents over the age of 60, including many people of Aboriginal heritage or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who are statistically at higher risk of falls. With one in three Australians over 65 having a fall each year, awareness of the role of medications in reducing the incidence of falls is vital for keeping residents independent and in their own home for as long as possible.
City of Armadale Mayor Henry Zelones OAM, JP said it is vitally important to keep track of your medications and ensure you have an up to date list of everything that you’re currently taking.

“If you experience any side effects, especially when taking sleeping tablets, take time to have a medicine review with your GP or Pharmacist and reduce your risk of a fall,” he said.

Supported by a grant from Injury Matters’ Stay On Your Feet® program, the City of Armadale recently held a Check Your Medicines seminar with keynote speakers from local Armadale services, including Geriatric Consultant Dr Nicholas Waldren.
Injury Matters Injury Prevention Manager, Rachel Meade, said good medicine management strategies help to keep older adults independent and healthy as they age.

“Simple things like speaking to your GP or pharmacist about side effects before starting a new medicine, keeping a list of your medications, or speaking to your GP or pharmacist about a medicine review can make all the difference,” Ms Meade said.

Participants of the City’s seminar were provided information on good sleep hygiene practices as an alternative option to using sleeping pills and encouraged to speak to their pharmacist for a free medicine review. A key take home message for participants was that falls are preventable.

Polypharmacy and Falls

Often, the effects of getting older results in the need to take multiple medications to treat a range of health conditions – including prescription, over the counter medications and supplements. However, polypharmacy, or taking multiple medications, increases your risk of falling.

In fact, two thirds of Australians over 75 take 5 or more medications, and half of all older adults are taking a medicine that is harmful or unnecessary.

If medicines are not taken as they are supposed to be or are combined, your body can react differently than originally intended. As well as increasing your falls risk, this can also increase your risk of receiving and consuming the wrong type or dosage of medications.

What medicine habits can cause falls?

Sometimes we can fall into medicine-related habits that may put us at risk of falls, such as:

Ignoring use-by-dates

All medicines have a use-by-date and should only be taken before its use-by-date, even if it is prescribed by a doctor.

If a medicine is past its use-by-date, the medicine may not work as it is intended to and the side effects of taking the medicine may change.

Out of date medicines can be disposed of at any pharmacy.

Sharing medication

Each medication is prescribed by a GP for a person’s specific needs. Therefore, it is recommended that you do not share medicines or use another person’s prescription.

Medicines that are not prescribed for you can result in a serious health risk.

Not knowing your interactions

If you do need to take multiple medications it is important for you to check with your GP or pharmacist about how they interact with each other.

Ways to combat your falls risk

There are simple ways you can adopt to reduce your risk of a fall, such as:

Medicine list

Keep an up to date list of their medications on you at all times, maybe in your purse or wallet.

Webster pack

A Webster Pack is a simple way to manage your medicines. They are set up by a pharmacist for a small fee. The pack has the details of all contained medicines on them and they illustrate what day and time of day to take the medicines.

Medicine Checks and Home Medicine Reviews

Free medicine checks are performed in a pharmacy and should include both prescription and non-prescription medications.

You should speak to your GP about any suggested changes. GP’s can also refer you for a free home medicines review, where a consultant pharmacist will visit you at home to review your medicines, discuss concerns and will write a report back to the GP. Home Medicine Reviews are recommended for anyone taking sleeping tablets or on more than five medications.

Sleeping Tablets Linked to Preventable Falls

As you get older, you may find yourself sleeping less or finding it more difficult to fall asleep. When this happens you might decide you should start taking sleeping tablets, however sleeping tablets can cause dizziness, light headedness, confusion and poor concentration, all of which increase your risk of having a fall.

There are many benefits of not taking sleeping tablets, including improvement in memory, increased alertness and a reduced risk of falls.

How do sleeping tablets put me at risk of a fall?

Sleeping tablets cause side effects including drowsiness and psychomotor impairment, which means your body takes more time to process even simple thoughts and movements. This can make normal acts like getting in and out of bed, or going to the bathroom at night very risky.

Sleeping tablets put you at higher risk of falling, and the number of older Australians who are prescribed sleeping tablets is rising. Luckily, there are real alternatives to improve your sleep and reduce your risk of falls.

Practise sleep hygiene as a healthy alternative to sleeping tablets

Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe good sleep habits, which you can use to help you get a good night’s sleep. If you are taking sleeping tablets you should speak to your GP about a plan to help you gradually reduce your sleeping tablet use. However, in the mean time, you can start some healthy habits such as:

Stay active during the day and avoid naps

Getting more active throughout the day can make a big difference to your sleep. By moving your body during the day, your muscles will need more time to recover – meaning you will have a restful and longer sleep at night. By avoiding the temptation of an afternoon nap, this too improves the depth of your sleep at night. By keeping your sleeping patterns regular, your body will follow a healthy pattern of wake and rest, reducing your need for sleeping aids.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes

Alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes impact systems in your body which are responsible for rest. Both caffeine and cigarettes disrupt sleeping patterns by speeding up your bodily processes, while caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol also dehydrate your body – leading to light or restless sleep.

Read before bed

Many people enjoy watching TV at night time, however the light from the screen impacts your sleep patterns as much as sunlight. Combat this by settling into bed with a good book for a while before bed. Both the rhythm of reading and the soft light will slowly work to put you to sleep.

It’s also a great idea to keep a sleep diary to keep a record of what sleep hygiene methods work best for you.

Get a medicine review

Free medicine checks are performed in a pharmacy and should include both prescription and non-prescription medications. You should speak to their GP about any suggested changes.

If you are using sleeping tablets or taking multiple medications speak to your GP about a referral for a free home medicine review, where a consultant pharmacist will visit your home to review your medicines, discuss concerns and write a report back to your GP.

Falls are preventable when you Check Your Medicines

The good news is falls are preventable, speak to your GP or Pharmacist if you experience side effects or are taking sleeping tablets.

Call 1300 30 35 40 and ask for your free Check Your Medicines information pack.

Check Your Medicines to Prevent Falls

Older adults are reminded to check their medicines, with Injury Matters program Stay On Your Feet®’s latest campaign, Check Your Medicines.

The Check Your Medicines campaign launched on 1 February 2019, focusing on the importance of good medication management as a strategy to reduce falls amongst older adults.

How do medicines impact falls risk?

As part of ageing, older adults may experience physiological changes which result in the need to begin taking medicines, and in some cases multiple medications. Getting older also increases the body’s responsiveness to the effects of medications and the side effects which they may cause.

Some medications, like sleeping tablets, can cause multiple side effects. Side effects of such medication, such as reduced mental alertness, blurred vision, dizziness and headaches can all be major contributing factors for falls.
Each year, one in three Australians over 65 have a fall, but falls are preventable. Managing your medicines plays an important role in reducing your risk.

Tips for Managing your Medicines to Prevent Falls

Simple things can make all the difference in falls prevention. Older adults are encouraged to:

  • Speak to their GP or Pharmacist about a medicine review
  • Keep track of their medications with an up to date list
  • Speak to their GP or Pharmacist if experiencing side effects or are taking sleeping tablets.
  • Before starting a new medicine, ask the Pharmacist to explain the benefits and what side effects to watch out for.

Get involved with the Check Your Medicines campaign

Check Your Medicines with Nancy, the new animation launched alongside the Check Your Medicines campaign, provides simple tips on how to reduce the risk of medicine-related falls through the characters Nancy and her pup, Bailey.

The Check Your Medicines campaign runs from 1 February – 30 April 2019. Campaign information and services are available our website, by signing up to the Falls Prevention eNews for health and community workers or the News and Views for older adults.

For health and community workers helping older adults to stay healthy and independent for longer, the campaign offers information and resources which promote simple, practical tips to promote the safe use of medicines.

To find out more, go to or call 1300 30 35 40.

Stay On Your Feet® is provided by Injury Matters and funded by the Western Australian Department of Health.

Find out more
Government of Western Australia Department of Health Injury Matters