What You Can Do to Avoid Falling

This information describes what you can do to keep from falling when you come for your appointments at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). It also describes how you can keep from falling while you’re at home.

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About Falls

Falls can be very harmful, but there are many ways you can prevent them. Falls can delay your treatment and can make your hospital stay longer. They can also cause you to need more tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Ongoing cancer treatment may also increase your chances of falling and getting hurt.

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Things That Can Make You Fall

Anyone can fall, but some things make you more likely to fall. You’re at higher risk for falling if you:

  • Are 60 years old or older
  • Have fallen before
  • Are afraid of falling
  • Feel weak, tired, or forgetful
  • Have numbness or tingling in your legs or feet
  • Have trouble walking or are unsteady
  • Can’t see well
  • Can’t hear well
  • Feel dizzy, lightheaded, or confused
  • Use a walker or cane
  • Have depression (strong feelings of sadness) or anxiety (strong feelings of worry or fear)
  • Have had a recent surgery with anesthesia (medication that makes you sleep)
  • Take certain medications, such as:
    • Laxatives (pills to cause a bowel movement)
    • Diuretics (water pills)
    • Sleeping pills
    • Medications to prevent seizures
    • Some medications for depression and anxiety
    • Pain medications, such as opioid medications
    • Intravenous (IV) fluids (fluids into your vein)
    • Any medication that makes you feel sleepy or dizzy
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How to Avoid Falling During Your MSK Appointments

The following are tips to help you stay safe and avoid falling while you’re at MSK:

  • Come to your appointment with someone who can help you get around.
  • If you use an assistive device such as a wheelchair or cane, bring it to your appointment.
  • Wear safe, supportive shoes. Examples include shoes that have a low heel height, a thin, firm midsole, a slip-resistant sole, and laces or Velcro® to close the shoe. Don’t wear shoes with an open back. For more information on choosing safe shoes, read the resource How to Choose Safe Shoes to Prevent Falling.
  • Ask a member of our staff, such as a security guard or person at the front desk, for help while you’re at MSK. They can also bring you a wheelchair to use during your appointment.
  • Have someone help you while you’re in the dressing room or bathroom. If you don’t have anyone with you, tell the person at the reception desk. They will find a nurse to help you.
  • Use the grab bars while you’re in the bathroom.
  • When getting up after lying down, sit at the side of the bed or exam table before you stand up
  • When getting up after sitting, don’t rush and take your time to stand up, so you don’t lose your balance.
  • If you feel dizzy or weak, tell someone. If you’re in a bathroom, look for a call bell that you can use to call for help.
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How to Avoid Falling at Home

The following are tips to help you stay safe and avoid falling 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 rugs and other loose items from your floor. If you have a rug covering a slippery floor, make sure the rug doesn’t have any loose or fringed edges.
  • If your bathroom isn’t close to your bedroom (or wherever you spend most of your time during the day), get a commode. A commode is a type of portable toilet that you can put anywhere in your home. Place it nearby so you don’t have to walk to the bathroom.
  • Put grab bars and handrails next to your toilet and inside your shower. Never use towel racks to pull yourself up. They aren’t strong enough to hold your weight.
  • Put anti-slip stickers on 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 after you’re lying down, sit for a few minutes before you stand up.
  • Place items in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets at shoulder height so you don’t have to reach too high or bend too low.
  • When you’re at an appointment with your provider at MSK, tell them about all the medications you take. Some medications can increase your risk of falling. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Stay physically active. Doing simple daily activities, such as walking, can help you stay strong and move around better.

If you’re concerned about your risk for falling, talk with your healthcare provider.

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Additional Resources

For more information about how to keep from falling at home, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) booklet Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults. It’s available in English and Spanish on www.cdc.gov/steadi/patient.html or by calling 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

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