Elderly people with dementia 'more likely to suffer falls' if they are given anti-depressants in care homesResidents taking SSRIs three times more likely to suffer an injury-causing fall
Alternative psychiatric treatments to be investigated
Elderly people with dementia are at greater risk of suffering a fall if they are given anti-depressants in care homes, say experts.
It is known that the medication can cause a range of side effects including dizziness and blurred vision, but a move to newer drugs, known as known as selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), was hoped to reduce these symptoms.
However research has found care home residents taking this type of medication were three times more likely to suffer an injury-causing fall than those
not taking SSRIs.
A study has found elderly people with dementia are at greater risk of suffering a fall if they are given anti-depressants in care homes
Falls are the leading cause of accidental death in the over-65s and the Alzheimer's society is now calling for further research to investigate alternative psychiatric treatments.
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society said: 'Two thirds of care home residents have dementia so it is worrying that a common antidepressant, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), is causing increased risk to people with the condition.
'More research is now needed to understand why this antidepressant is having this effect on people with dementia and if there is an alternative treatment for depression that they could be prescribed.'
Two thirds of care home residents have
dementia so it is worrying that a common antidepressant is causing increased risk
Researchers from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, recorded the daily drug use and records of falls in 248 nursing home residents over a two-year period.
The average age of the residents was 82, and the records suggested that 152 of them had suffered a total of 683 falls resulting in hip fractures, sprains, bruises, swelling and in one case death.
SSRIs were shown to treble the risk of having an
injury-causing fall and this increased if
the patient was simultaneously prescribed sedative drugs, such as sleeping pills.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, suggest this trend occurs regardless of sex and age.
Lead researcher Dr Carolyn Sterke said that the findings could help develop more effective fall prevention strategies.
She warned: 'Physicians should be cautious in prescribing SSRIs to older people with dementia, even at low doses.'
While the study uncovered an association between injury-causing falls and SSRI use, a direct cause and effect relationship has not been proven.
It is estimated that 750,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer's disease.