Hip fractures are highly prevalent in the ever-growing aging population due to age-related decline in bone strength. Not only do hip fractures cause extreme debilitation to quality of life, they also significantly increase the risk of mortality. The mortality rate one year after a hip fracture is an estimated 20%. Moreover, 20% of community-residing seniors who experience a hip fracture must be admitted to a nursing home. For those who are able to return to living in the community, most never fully regain the level of physical and social independence they previously had before hip fracture. Due to the devastating consequences that follow hip fracture, it is critical that risk factors are identified in order to prevent them from occurring.
Psychotropic medications of all classes are one of the primary risk factors for hip fracture. Benzodiazepine, specifically, has received significant attention due to its widespread use within the older adult population. Benzodiazepines are often used long term by elderly people and are also used to sedate older adults during hospital admission. Many studies have shown that taking benzodiazepines cause falls, which commonly lead to hip fracture. Meta-analysis of observational epidemiological studies has shown that benzodiazepines increase fall risk by 50%. Furthermore, a randomized trial of one study found that fall risk decreased by 66% with the reduction of benzodiazepines. A recent review found that benzodiazepines increase hip fracture risk by approximately 60%, with a likelihood of older adults in hospital settings at higher risk than those living in nursing homes. Moreover, ambulatory nursing home residents who take psychotropic drugs like benzodiazepines have an increased risk of falling.
The review found that elderly people who have recently started using benzodiazepines or are taking high doses of the drug have the greatest risk of hip fracture. It was also noted that the withdrawal of this psychotropic drug greatly reduced falls.
It is important to understand the underlying causes of how benzodiazepines make older adults more likely to fall and experience hip fracture. Benzodiazepines significantly impair gait and balance, as well as promote postural instability. Some studies have also found that benzodiazepines disrupt vision. These are only a few of the numerous impairments that are caused by this psychotropic drug that so many older adults are prescribed. It should also be noted that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the benefits of using benzodiazepines outweigh the disadvantages.
Falls and hip fractures among older adult residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities already occur far too often without the influence of psychotropic drugs. Elderly care providers in these long term care facilities must administer drugs like benzodiazepines with extreme caution and only when necessary to prevent the risk of future falls for this highly vulnerable population. If you or a loved one has experienced a fall or hip fracture due to inappropriate administration of psychotropic drugs by a nursing home or assisted living facility staff, contact the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi today. We believe that every older adult resident is entitled to the best quality of care and those who become a victim of elder abuse or neglect deserve vindication for the reprehensible actions of long term care staff.