Blood Pressure Drugs and Dangerous Falls Among Older Adults

When nursing home neglect happens, elderly patients can sustain serious and life-threatening injuries.  But a recent article in the New York Times suggests that care facilities may need to pay particular attention to residents who take high blood pressure medication.  What’s going on with blood pressure medication?  In short, patients who take these drugs might be much more likely to suffer injuries in a dangerous fall.  And, according to the article, “more than 70 percent of those over age 70 contend with high blood pressure.”

Old Guy

Has your elderly loved one sustained injuries in a fall?  Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a duty to keep residents safe, and many advocates in California currently are working to make RCFEs safer places for residents.  Don’t hesitate to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping victims of elder abuse, and we can answer your questions today.

New Study: Link Between High Blood Pressure and Serious Fall Injuries

In a study looking at 5,000 older adults who are Medicare beneficiaries, more than 85 percent were on at least one type of blood pressure medication, and “most took two or three, or more.”  What are the different classes of blood pressure medications?  For most of us, it’s difficult to distinguish among the available forms of blood pressure drugs.  They include diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and renin-angiotensin system blockers.

According to Dr. Mary Tinetti, the chief of geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine, “the prevailing notion is that these medications are safe, with very few adverse effects.”  However, Tinetti’s recent study suggests that anti-hypertensive drugs might not be as safe as we’d like to think.  In fact, the study found that, among older adults with an average age of 80 who had been taking blood pressure medications for up to three years, “the risk of serious fall injuries—fractured bones, brain injuries or dislocated joints—was significantly higher.”  In other words, taking blood pressure medication appears to increase the risk of a serious fall.

Of the 5,000 seniors involved in the study, 9 percent sustained severe injuries in falls during a three-year follow-up period conducted by the researchers.  And “serious fall injuries were 40 percent higher than among people who didn’t take anti-hypertensives.”

While Tinetti has emphasized that her study doesn’t prove that blood pressure medications cause falls, it does suggest that “anti-hypertensive medications are among the logical suspects.”  Why would blood pressure drugs lead to falls?  The answer might be simpler than you’d think.  These drugs lower a person’s blood pressure.  As a result, when older adults stand up, the drugs can “make them fatigued, confused, and dizzy.”  And as Tinetti points out, “those are all risk factors for falls.”

Monitoring Elderly Residents with High Blood Pressure

With a very large percentage of older adults taking anti-hypertensives, Tinetti’s study suggests that a high percentage of the residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities may be at increased risk of a dangerous fall.  While medical authorities have advised altering the guidelines for blood pressure medications given to elderly patients, caregivers may need to take on additional monitoring responsibilities.

Blood pressure management is a tricky field, given the risks associated with untreated high blood pressure.  But are the blood pressure medications worth the risk of a fall?  Remember, serious falls can result in permanent disabilities and life-threatening injuries.  If a loved one has sustained injuries from a fall at a nursing home or residential facility, contact the Walton Law Firm today.  An experienced California nursing home abuse attorney can speak to you about your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

Higher Penalties for Assisted Living Facilities

Nursing Home Falls Usually Caused By Systematic Negligence

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