Home » Blog » When Falls Reveal Addiction in Older Adults

When Falls Reveal Addiction in Older Adults

Feb 20, 2020

Falls in older family members always concern us, but there’s a good reason to take a closer look at what might be contributing to these incidents. While physical weakness and poor health could contribute to a parent or other loved one falling down, one factor you might not have in mind is the effects of medication use and misuse. Today, let’s talk about how to recognize when the falls are the result of drug interactions or substance abuse, and what next steps you can take with your loved one to help the situation.

When an older family member falls down, the first step is getting them the medical attention they need. If falls become more frequent or cannot be explained by medical or physical conditions, it’s helpful to follow up with a doctor to determine if drug interactions or alcohol misuse may be the cause. An aging loved one who is misusing prescription drugs and/or alcohol can find support in a treatment program designed to help them work towards recovery while accommodating their medical, physical, and emotional needs.  

Physical conditions can lead to falls.

When we hear about an aging parent falling down, we may assume a physical condition is to blame. It could stem from a range of variables, from poor health to a lack of regular exercise. We might consider the impact of an ongoing medical condition, such as arthritis, or suspect the presence of an infection or something else undiagnosed.

If you are seeing or hearing about an older family member falling down, the first response should be getting them medical attention for both treatment of any injuries and an exam or tests to determine a potential physical or medical cause. Only when it’s determined the fall was not caused by a physical or medical condition should you move on to exploring other possibilities. This step may look like both a trip to an emergency room and a follow-up with your loved one’s doctor.

Drug interactions can lead to falls.

It’s helpful to be aware of all the medications your older loved one is taking. If the fall is preceded by starting a new medication, for example, there may be a drug interaction occurring which is making their use of certain medications together unsafe. The results can range from poor memory to a loss of balance.

If you have noticed a high frequency in falling down by your older parent and suspect it’s being caused by drug interactions, you can suggest they schedule a doctor’s appointment and then offer to join them when the time comes. While your loved one may resist having you completely involved, you can discuss your concerns with their doctor. A physician who determines there’s a potential misuse of medications will be an ally in helping your family member seek treatment for it.

Alcohol misuse can lead to falls.

In an aging parent, misuse of alcohol doesn’t automatically mean binge drinking or daily drinking. It could be having a negative reaction to drinking a glass of wine or two while on a particular medication. The mix of the two could lead to an imbalance that lasts longer than it would in a younger person.

Similar to the response to potential drug interactions and medication misuse, your recognition of a parent’s falls being exacerbated by a misuse of alcohol is also a good reason for a consultation with their doctor. Providing details about what you have observed personally, regarding alcohol consumption with medications, can give your loved one’s doctor some valuable insight they might not otherwise be provided during an appointment. If alcohol misuse is identified, their doctor will suggest some next steps, including seeking treatment.

Treatment can be a solution for older family members.

The seriousness of your aging loved one’s falls can be addressed in a private conversation either by you alone or as a family, whichever option you feel will be more effective. When identifying what you see as a problem, whether drug or alcohol misuse, it’s helpful to remain caring and compassionate and offer to help find solutions to the problem. A treatment program designed to help them with recovery and equipped to meet their specific medical, physical, and emotional needs can be that solution.


Hanley Center – A Path to Recovery

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

You May Also Like…

What is Wet Brain?

What is Wet Brain?

To many, the term "wet brain" is mysterious and perplexing. In its simplest form, wet brain describes a severe and...

What Is Gray Area Drinking?

What Is Gray Area Drinking?

The guidelines for excessive drinking, as defined by organizations such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and...