Patients who have just had surgery are at an increased fall risk. The good news is there are measures that can be taken to lower the risk. Prevention and planning are the keys!
In the hospital, fall prevention is a major initiative for staff. But what happens when you get home? Before surgery happens, good planning starts with preparing your home environment.
- Start with identifying a team to help you – limitations are inevitable.
- Clean and remove all clutter. Place extension cords and telephone cords out of walkways.
- Remove throw rugs and secure loose carpeting.
- Cut grass, take care of the garden and complete other yard work.
- Wash and put away laundry.
- Prepare meals and freeze them.
- Organize closets and drawers so clothes worn the most are within easy reach. DO NOT use bottom drawers or keep shoes on the closet door.
- Arrange frequently used items at waist level throughout the house to avoid bending and reaching.
- Put clean linens on your bed.
- Purchase or borrow any medical equipment you feel would assist with activities of daily living. This may include bathtub grab bar, toilet riser, bath or shower chair/bench, shoe horn, step stool, extended length grabber, etc.
- Prepare to have someone get your mail and care for your pets and/or loved ones as necessary.
- Don’t rush (e.g. to get the doorbell or telephone).
- Be sure to understand how to use any medical equipment provided for you.
- Do not use treadmills or unfamiliar exercise equipment until consulting your physician.
- Wear shoes that fit well and have soles with a good grip.
- Maintain adequate hydration and a proper diet.
- Balance rest with activity.
For many, walking is encouraged post operatively. Weaker muscles, joint pain/stiffness, decreased sensation in legs and feet can affect balance. After surgery you may become less agile, resulting in slower reaction times. Pavement cracks, misaligned sidewalks, construction and slippery surfaces all contribute to increased fall risks. It is encouraged to scout out and pre-plan a walking route to become familiar with such areas. After surgery walking at a comfortable pace and remaining aware of self and surroundings during your walk will help reduce fall risks.
Medications are often prescribed for post-operative pain. Side effects can include dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion. It is important to take only medication prescribed for you, and follow the directions provided. Consult with your physician or pharmacy if side effects are experienced.
Heather Gueller, BSN, RN is the Patient Educator at the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin. She is detailed oriented with a passion for providing exceptional patient care. Heather has worked as a Surgical Department Charge Nurse, Neuro/Spine Lead Nurse, and Circulating Operating Room Nurse for 9 years at a Level II Trauma Hospital.