Nursing Home Falls Linked to Antidepressants: Study

The side effects of Wellbutrin, Zyban, Effexor and similar drugs could increase the risk of nursing home falls, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers from the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston found that the risk of suffering a fall increases days after nursing home residents begin prescriptions for any non-selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. The study was published online this month by the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

The study looked at data on 1,181 nursing home residents who suffered falls, and researchers found that nursing home residents were nearly five times as likely to fall within two days of being put on a new non-SSRI antidepressant than those who were not given the drugs. The average age of those who fell was 88 and 71% were female. The effect decreased with time and after five days of being on the antidepressant the risk of falling equaled those of other nursing home residents, researchers found.

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To reduce the risk of nursing home falls and other injuries, all facilities are required to have an assessment done when a resident enters the facility. The assessment should describe the functional capacity of the resident and evaluate their risk for falling. Based on this assessment, proper steps must be taken to supervise the resident and provide safety devices to prevent a fall injury.

However, the researchers concluded that nursing homes should conduct increased surveillance for residents who have recently been prescribed non-SSRI antidepressants, especially within the first 48 hours. The increase in attentiveness could reduce nursing home falls, the researchers determined.

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