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Nursing home residents who have multiple diseases are most prone to falls, according to a study recently published in the journal BMC Geriatrics. Urinary incontinence, antidepressant use, multiple medication use and arrhythmias also were strongly associated with falls.

Researchers in Spain studied 733 long-term care residents for a year, using negative binomial regression models to reach their conclusions. Number of diseases was the clearest risk factor for falls. Researchers noted that the risk sharply increases from people with zero or a disease to people with 2-3 diseases. From that point, the risk largely plateaus.

Given that polypharmacy, or multiple medications, was also found to be a significant risk factor for falls, caregivers may want to investigate reducing the number of medications for patients with multiple diseases, the researchers suggested.

Acknowledging a debate about the effectiveness of fall prevention initiatives in the nursing home setting, the researchers surmised some programs are ineffective because number of diseases is a hard risk factor to mitigate. However, they said other primary risk factors they identified, such as urinary incontinence and antidepressant use, are “more amenable to control.”