Preventing Falls: What You Can Do

This information describes how you can prevent falls while you are in the hospital and at home.

Are You at Risk for Falls?

Anyone can fall, but some things make people more likely. Some risk factors for falls include:

  • If you have fallen before
  • Having a fear of falling
  • Feeling weak, tired, or forgetful
  • Having numbness or tingling in the legs or feet
  • Having difficulty walking, or unsteady walking
  • Having poor vision
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or disoriented
  • Using a walker or cane
  • Having depression or anxiety
  • Taking certain medications, such as
    • Laxatives
    • Water pills (diuretics)
    • Sleeping pills
    • Medications to prevent seizures
    • Some antidepressants
    • Pain medications
    • Fluids into a vein (called IV or intravenous fluids)
    • Any medication that makes you feel sleepy
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How to Prevent Falls While You Are Visiting MSK

  • Bring someone with you who can help you get around.
  • Ask a member of MSK staff, such as a security guard, for a wheelchair to use while you are at MSK.
  • Have someone help you while you’re in the dressing room or bathroom. Ask at the reception desk for help if there is no one with you.
  • When getting up from a lying position, always sit at the side of the bed or exam table for a few minutes before you stand up.
  • If you feel dizzy or weak, let someone know you need help. Many of the bathrooms have call bells that you can use to call for help.
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How to Prevent Falls While You Are Hospitalized

Even though you may be able to safely walk by yourself at home, in the hospital you may be getting treatment or medication that can affect your ability to safely walk by yourself. That’s why we assess patients for their risk of falling throughout their hospitalization. Please follow the tips below to stay safe.

  • Before you go to sleep, make sure that your nightlight is on. You can ask your nurse to turn it on, if needed. Keep all of your personal items (e.g., eyeglasses, water, book) within reach.
  • If you feel dizzy or weak, call for help before getting out of bed.
  • Before you get out of bed, sit at the side of your bed for a few minutes.
  • Wear laced or closed-toe shoes or slippers with non-skid soles. Non-skid socks are available to all patients while in the hospital; ask your nurse if you need a pair. Non-skid socks can be purchased at the gift shop.
  • Use the grab bars in the bathroom and railings in the hallways.
  • Have your nurse take you to the bathroom whenever he or she is in your room and especially before bedtime. This is so you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Patients at higher risk for falling have additional steps to take in order to stay safe while in the hospital. These steps will be explained to you and your caregivers by your nursing staff as part of our Fall Prevention Program, including:
  • Calling for assistance every time you need to get out of bed.
  • Avoid bending over. If you drop something, call for help.
  • Avoid leaning on furniture with wheels for support, such as your bedside table, overbed table, and IV pole.
  • Calling right away if you see any spills that need to be wiped up. Every time we mop the floor a yellow sign will be posted to tell you that the floor is wet.
  • Always wearing your glasses or hearing aid when you’re out of bed.
  • Making sure we’ve done all we can to keep you safe, such as
    • Raising your bedrails
    • Keeping a clear path for you to get to the bathroom
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How to Prevent Falls While You Are at Home

  • Set up your furniture so that you can walk around without anything blocking your way.
  • Use a nightlight or keep a flashlight close to you at night.
  • Remove throw rugs or other loose items from your floor. If you have an area rug covering a slippery floor, make sure the rug does not have any loose or fringed edges.
  • If your bathroom is not close to your bedroom (or where you spend most of your time during the day), get a commode. Place it near you so you do not have to walk to the bathroom.
  • Install grab bars and handrails next to your toilet and inside your shower. Never use towel racks to pull yourself up because they are not strong enough to hold your weight.
  • Apply anti-slip stickers to the floor of your tub or shower.
  • Buy a shower chair and a hand-held shower head so you can sit while taking a shower.
  • When getting up from a lying position, always sit at the side of the bed or couch for a few minutes before you stand.
  • Arrange items in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets at shoulder height so that you don’t have to bend too high or low.

If you are concerned about your risk for falling, please speak with your doctor or nurse.

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