Unfortunately, it is still not uncommon for patients to experience a fall while in the hospital. While most falls do not have a significant impact on outcome, they can result in increased pain, longer length of time in the hospital, complicating your condition, and contribute to the perception of the quality of care received. Numerous studies have been done on falls occurring in hospitals, nursing homes, and in the community.
- Falls are common both in hospitalized patients and in elderly people living in the community. Elderly patients recently discharged from the hospital are at an even higher risk for falls.
- In geriatric care, approximately 80–90 percent of all patient injuries are caused by falls.
- The likelihood of falling seems to increase, depending on the number of risk factors that are present.
Risk Factors and Fall Prediction
- Studies have shown that one of the strongest factors associated with falls is history of a previous fall. Falls do not always occur because you are careless. A fall may be an indication that some of your medication is having an adverse effect or you may have had a change in your medical condition. Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if you have experienced a fall.
- It is not unusual to become confused or disoriented when in the hospital. This can lead to an increased risk of falling. This is particularly true for our elderly patients. If this occurs it may be helpful for a family member or friend to stay with you, if appropriate.
- Other sorts of mental, sensory, or functional impairments, such as those that may be caused by stroke, dementia, or Parkinson's Disease place patients at a higher risk for falls.
- Falls often are associated with the need to go to the bathroom. Patients want to be independent and sometimes do not realize how unsteady they are. It is always better to call for assistance than take the risk of falling.
- Other risk factors include a longer duration of hospitalization, anti-seizure and antidepressant medications, topical eye medications, diuretics (fluid pills), some high blood pressure medications, and certain cardiac drugs.
- Gait and balance difficulties and weakness have also been identified as risk factors for falls. It is best to wear skid-free slippers when attempting to walk and maneuver about. Use of walking aids, such as canes or walkers, can contribute to a fall.
- For nursing home patients, use of multiple medications and starting new medications, especially mood-altering drugs, have been shown to be significant risk factors for falls.
How You Can Help Reduce Your Risk of Falling
- Be sure to tell your doctor and nurses if you have experienced a fall within the last few months. This will be important for them to know as they work to develop your plan of care.
- Having surgery or being in bed for a longer than normal period of time can lead to weakness and being unsteady on your feet. When getting out of bed for the first time, always ask for assistance. Continue to ask for assistance as long as you feel uncertain about your ability to manage on your own.
- Wear skid-proof slippers.
- Try not to delay the urge to go to the bathroom. Request help, if needed, when you begin to feel the need to go. Delays may create more of an "emergency" situation and contribute to a fall.
- If your family member is confused or agitated, consider having someone stay with them. In addition to acting as a safeguard against falling, a familiar face is often more reassuring and comforting to the patient.
- If you need a walker, cane, or crutches, familiarize yourself with the proper and safe way to use them. Your nurse or physical therapist can help with this.