Tips for Patients to Avoid Falls in the Hospital

Falls are a significant concern in hospitals, posing risks of injury and extended hospital stays for patients. While hospitals implement numerous safety protocols to prevent falls, patients and their families can also take proactive steps to reduce the risk. Here are essential tips for patients to avoid falls during their hospital stay.

Understand Your Risk Factors

  • Discuss Your Risk with Healthcare Providers: Upon admission, talk to your healthcare team about your fall risk. Factors like age, medication side effects, mobility issues, and certain medical conditions can increase the likelihood of falls. Understanding your risk can help tailor preventive measures to your specific needs.

Create a Safe Environment

  • Keep Personal Items Within Reach: Arrange your room so that essential items like water, tissues, medications, and the call button are within easy reach. Avoid placing objects on the floor or in walkways where they might create tripping hazards.
  • Use Proper Lighting: Ensure that your room is well-lit, especially at night. Ask for a nightlight or keep a small light on to help you navigate the room safely when it’s dark.
  • Wear Non-Slip Footwear: Always wear non-slip socks or shoes while moving around your room. Hospital-provided socks with grip soles are often available and can prevent slips on hard floors.

Safe Mobility Practices

  • Ask for Assistance: Don’t hesitate to ask for help when getting in and out of bed, especially if you feel weak, dizzy, or unsteady. Use the call button to request assistance from the nursing staff.
  • Use Mobility Aids: If you have a walker, cane, or wheelchair, make sure to use it consistently. Ensure that these aids are in good condition and correctly adjusted for your height and needs.
  • Follow Your Care Plan: Adhere to the mobility plan prescribed by your healthcare provider. If physical therapy is recommended, participate actively, as it can improve strength and balance, reducing fall risk.

Medication Management

  • Be Aware of Medication Side Effects: Some medications can cause dizziness, drowsiness, or low blood pressure, increasing the risk of falls. Ask your healthcare provider about the side effects of your medications and any measures you can take to mitigate them.
  • Take Medications as Prescribed: Follow your medication schedule precisely. Skipping doses or taking them incorrectly can lead to fluctuations in your condition, increasing fall risk.

Bathroom Safety

  • Use Bathroom Safety Devices: If available, use grab bars, raised toilet seats, and shower chairs. These devices can provide extra support and stability.
  • Don’t Rush: Take your time when using the bathroom. Rushing can lead to slips and falls. If you feel unsteady, use the call button to ask for assistance.

Communication and Education

  • Communicate with Your Healthcare Team: Keep your healthcare team informed about any changes in your condition, such as feeling dizzy or weak. Prompt communication can help them take timely action to prevent falls.
  • Educate Yourself and Your Family: Learn about fall prevention strategies and share this information with family members or caregivers who may assist you during your hospital stay.

Hospital Policies and Support

  • Follow Hospital Safety Protocols: Adhere to hospital policies designed to prevent falls, such as using bed rails or alarms if recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Participate in Fall Prevention Programs: Many hospitals offer fall prevention programs that include education, assessments, and interventions. Participate in these programs to enhance your safety.

Preventing falls in the hospital requires a combination of awareness, preparation, and communication. By understanding your risk factors, creating a safe environment, following safe mobility practices, managing medications carefully, and engaging with your healthcare team, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling. These proactive steps can help ensure a safer and more comfortable hospital stay, facilitating a quicker and smoother recovery.

The contents of this article have been reviewed by Dr. Daniel Jacoby, Director of Hospital Medicine, Shore Medical Center.