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Out of date medicines can be disposed of at any pharmacy.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

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

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Government of Western Australia Department of Health Injury Matters