DPHHS: Stay Steady on Your Feet
National Falls Prevention Week took place on Sept. 18-22, and serves as an ideal opportunity for Montanans to consider what factors increase their risk of falling and what actions they can take to mitigate those risks.
Department of Public Health and Human Services officials report that nearly one in three Montanans aged 65 and older have reported falling at least once in the past 12 months.
“Falling is not a normal part of aging, but knowing a person’s risk factors can reduce the chance of an unintentional fall,” DPHHS falls prevention program manager Melissa Dale said. “As a person ages, they are at an increased risk for falling and sustaining an injury.”
Dale noted that almost half (48 percent) of the falls among Montanans aged 55 and over are from a slip, trip, or stumble from the ground level. In fact, over 19,000 emergency department visits in Montana in 2022 were the result of an unintentional fall. Fortunately, Montanans can take the following proactive steps to prevent many falls from ever occurring.
These steps include:
•Find a good balance and exercise program. Look to build balance, strength, and flexibility.
•Talk to your healthcare provider. Ask for an assessment of your risk of falling.
•Regularly review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling.
•Get your vision and hearing checked annually. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
•Keep your home safe. Remove tripping hazards, increase lighting, make stairs safe, and install grab bars in key areas.
•Talk to your family members. Enlist their support in taking simple steps to stay safe. Falls are not just a seniors’ issue. Dale said more than half of all falls occur at home, but this can be reduced by making a few safety modifications and practical lifestyle changes.
“Older adults need to be aware of what activities may put them at risk,” she said.
The National Council on Aging and DPHHS have partnered to bring awareness to older Montanans to learn about their risk of falling.
The NCOA has a free falls risk assessment tool, known as the Falls Free Check-Up, which can be accessed at https://www.ncoa.org/article/ falls-free-checkup.
The Falls Free Check-Up is an easy-to-use questionnaire created to assess an individual’s risk of falling. Upon completion of the 13 questions, the risk assessment is provided. The more risk factors calculated, the higher chance an individual has of falling.
“Those who have multiple risk factors for falling, who have fallen, or have a fear of falling are welcome to attend a falls prevention workshop,” Dale said.
DPHHS works closely with local communities across Montana to offer falls prevention workshops, which include Stepping On and Stay Active & Independent for Life. These programs focus on practical steps to reduce the risk of falling through lifestyle management and physical activity.
To locate Stepping On and SAIL workshops, visit the Montana Falls Prevention Program website or call 844684-5848.