Nursing Home Antidepressant Use May Increase Risk of Falling

The use of some antidepressants among nursing home residents with dementia may increase the risk of falls, which can lead to serious injury or death, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers from the Netherlands report that giving individuals with dementia an antidepressants in a nursing home that belong to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, triples their risk of suffering a fall.

These nursing home falls can lead to hip fractures, head injuries and death, according to the report published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

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Researchers looked at data on 248 nursing home residents with dementia from January 1, 2006, through January 1, 2008. The median age of the residents was 82 years.

The results indicate that 152 of the 248 residents, or a little more than 60%, suffered 683 falls during that time period. While 38 of those residents had only one fall, 114 fell frequently.

Injuries from the falls among nursing home antidepressant users were reported in 220 of cases, one of which resulted in the death of the resident. Residents who were given SSRIs had three times the risk of falling than those who were not taking the drugs.

Many nursing home residents with dementia genuinely suffer from depression, and health experts say that the use of SSRIs can help. However, the researchers in the latest study warned that nursing homes giving SSRIs to patients need to develop plans that take into account the increased risk of those patients suffering a potentially injurious or even fatal fall.


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