AARP Eye Center
A hospital is usually thought of as a safe place where sick people go to heal from injury or illness. But that perception isn't always accurate.
Even a short stay can put patients at risk for dangerous health outcomes, including falls and infections. Sleep deprivation and disorienting medications can induce delirium; constant bed rest can result in a number of complicated health conditions.
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You can do several things, however, to avoid common inpatient health hazards and improve your rate of recovery in the hospital. Experts share their top tips:
Reduce your fall risk
No matter how healthy and active you are at home, it's important to exercise caution when attempting to get up and move around in the hospital, says Sharon O'Brien, a pulmonologist and chief quality and patient safety officer at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. And that's because “your fall risk changes dramatically once you are admitted.”
You may be on new medications that make you weak or light-headed, O'Brien explains. And tubes and wires from IVs, catheters and monitoring devices could cause you to trip.
Plus “you may not be eating and drinking regularly, either because of your illness or because you're fasting for testing,” O'Brien says. “So the way you navigate at home may not be appropriate for the way you're going to navigate in the hospital.”
Falls, especially in older adults, can result in serious physical and cognitive complications — even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, staying in a hospital bed all day can delay healing and lead to frailty, which is why O'Brien says: “We want people to get up and walk, but we want to do it in the right way and in the safe way.”
Because your balance can be off “for a lot of reasons” in the hospital, O'Brien recommends calling for help before you get up so that a staff member can lend a hand if you need it. Ask your care team about walkers and other assistive devices to make your stroll stumble-free. You can also request physical therapy, O'Brien says.