Nursing home residents given antidepressants to help treat dementia are three times more likely to suffer serious falls, which can be life-threatening in older people, a new study shows.
Netherlands researchers in the Netherlanders found dementia patients in nursing homes who took even low doses of commonly prescribed antidepressants known as “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs) were at greater risk of falls. The higher the doses, the higher the risks, researchers reported in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
"Our study also discovered that the risk of an injurious fall increased even more if the residents were also given hypnotic or sedative drugs as sleeping pills," said lead author Carolyn Shanty Sterke, a geriatric medicine specialist at Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam.
Many nursing home residents with dementia also suffer from depression, and are given antidepressants. Falls are a major health problem for older people; up to one-third of all falls result in an injury.
To reach their conclusions, Sterke and colleagues tracked the drug use and falls in 248 nursing home residents with dementia from 2006 to 2008. They found 152 of the 248 residents (61.5 percent) sustained 683 falls. They concluded the risk of having an injurious fall increased threefold for residents taking SSRIs, regardless of gender.