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Falls Prevention

A Guide for Patients and Families

What is a fall?
A fall is when you suddenly land on the floor or ground. There does not have to be an injury.

Why do people fall?
Falls include slips and trips and are caused by a loss of balance or a lack of ability to recover your balance. Falls can happen anywhere.

People fall for many reasons. These are called risk factors.
Risk factors include your health condition, environment and the choices you make. They can include changes in:

  • physical health
  • strength, balance, coordination
  • activity level
  • sleep patterns
  • surroundings
  • Medication
  • Vision or hearing

The good news is that most falls can be prevented. You can take action to stay active.

Where do falls usually happen?

In the hospital --In the hospital falls most often occur in your room or in the bathroom. When do falls usually happen? Falls often happen when you:

  • get in or out of bed
  • get on or off the toilet

These falls are often related to weakness, dizziness, tripping or slipping. Falls may happen when you:

  • reach for something that is too far away
  • bend to pick something up and lose your balance
  • hold on to a movable object like a bedside table
  • slip on something wet on the floor
  • have footwear that isn't safe or doesn't fit properly

While in the hospital what can I do to prevent a fall
Use your call bell before you get up. Ask for help - if you are weak, dizzy or unsteady, or at night.

Ask to have in easy reach your:

  • Phone
  • Call bell
  • Hearing aids
  • Walker, cane or gait aids
  • Glasses
  • Table
  • Do not use walkers or tables that have wheels that do not lock, to help you stand up. These can move too easily.
  • When sitting down, back up to the chair until you feel your legs touching the seat. Reach for the armrests before sitting.
  • When using a wheelchair make sure the brakes are locked and the foot plates are turned out of the way before getting in or out of the chair.
  • Assistive devices- if you use a cane, walker or crutches to walk at home then you will need them in the hospital.
  • Tell staff if a spill happens or something is dropped on the floor.
  • Medication-Talk to your nurse, pharmacist or doctor about possible side effects. Tell them if you feel weak or dizzy after taking your pills.
  • Exercise to keep your muscles strong and prevent new weakness and decrease in balance.

Tips for families

  • Tell the nurse if your family member reports or appears confused, dizzy, or weak.
  • Help out by leaving the bedside table, phone and call bell in reach.
  • Ask the nurse if you can take your family member for a walk. This may be better for them than sitting.

Going home- Be safe- Protect Yourself!
At home most falls occur in the bathroom and on or near the stairs. You can prevent falls by making changes to your home and lifestyle. Make sure you eat well, stay fit and use the devices recommended to help keep you safe. Your independence and well-being are at stake.

  • Watch out for your pets, don't trip on them or their leash.
  • If using a cane, crutches or walker, check the rubber tips and replace them if they are worn. During the winter months use ice picks on your cane, crutches or straight walkers.
  • Stairs:
  1. Install hand railings on both sides
  2. Take your time, never rush
  3. Have stairs well lit and clutter free
  4. Be sure any carpeting is secure
  • Tuck in bedspread corners to prevent tripping.
  • Do not carry too much at once.
  • Ask family and friends to let the phone ring, to allow you time to answer. Don't hurry.
  • Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone.
  • Remove clutter and scatter rugs that are a tripping hazard.
  • Be socially active, join a group or get together with friends.
  • Do not climb on stools, chairs and step ladders
  • Begin a daily exercise program. Staying active is easier than learning to move again. Exercises to help your balance and strength are best for preventing falls.

When you are walking outdoors:

  • Walk on well maintained sidewalks and well-lit streets.
  • Try to walk with someone.

During the winter months consider:

  • Avoiding icy surfaces or uneven ground.
  • Wearing treads or grippers on your outdoor shoes.
  • Carrying a small bag of sand to use for icy areas
  • Other options - mall walking or indoor track walking.
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