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New Research Shows Strong Link Between Antidepressants and Nursing Home Falls

Chicago nursing home lawyers at Pintas and Mullins know that falls are one of the most common and dangerous nursing home accidents that residents suffer, often resulting in potentially life-threatening complications. In many cases, careful planning and assessment can help prevent tragic nursing home falls. A new study warns of the increased risk for nursing home falls for residents taking certain types of antidepressants and stresses the need for close monitoring when prescriptions are given or doses are increased.

In the study published in US News and World Report, researchers from the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew Senior Life in Boston found that nursing home residents are five times more likely to fall within two days of being put on a non-SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant, such as Wellbutrin, Effexor, or Zyban. As time passes, the risk of falling decreases.

New prescriptions are not the only cause for concern for vulnerable nursing home residents, who are already prone to falling due to their frail conditions. When dosages of non-SSRI antidepressants are merely changed, the same increased fall risk applies. In addition to falls, residents may also suffer adverse side effects such as dramatic increases in blood pressure and coordination problems.

This research is alarming, because antidepressants are widely used in Illinois nursing homes and in facilities around the country. More than one-third of the nation’s 1.6 million nursing home residents take some sort of antidepressant medication. Although our Illinois nursing home negligence attorneys understand that these prescriptions are important, especially for patients suffering from dementia and other similar condition, we recognize the need for extra monitoring whenever a prescription is administered or changed. Nursing homes have a legal obligation to protect residents, and nursing home workers are required to assess the individual abilities and fall risk for each resident that enters a facility. Accordingly, proper steps need to be taken, including supervision or safety equipment, to prevent a fall that could result in serious permanent injuries or threaten a resident’s life.

It is imperative that our loved ones are adequately cared by nursing home staffers. The latest research shows that the first 48 hours are critical when residents are prescribed non-SSRI antidepressants, or their dosages are increased. Increased attentiveness can go a long way to prevent a fall. Researchers recommend that medication changes be made on weekdays, since nursing homes are often short staffed on the weekends. At the very least, a nursing home worker who is familiar with the resident and the resident’s particular needs should be keeping a watchful eye when medication changes are made. Many falls can be prevented with proper prevention.

The consequences of a nursing home fall are serious. A single fall can result in serious injury, and lead to secondary complications. In addition to physical pain, nursing home falls can also lead to mental and emotional anguish for residents and their families who often feel helpless. An experienced nursing home lawyer can help residents and their families recognize when a fall should have been prevented and whether fall victims may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering they experienced.

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