Department of Public Health and Human Services officials say that every 11 seconds in the United States an older adult ends up in the emergency room as a result of a fall.

In fact, in a recent report about the burden of falls in Montana, falls are the third leading cause of accidental deaths for older adults in the state.

According to DPHHS Falls Prevention Program Manager Melissa Dale, falls can have lasting consequences on the elderly.

“Falls can result in a variety of injuries in adults aged 65 years and older, including hip fractures and head trauma,” Dale said. “Once an older adult experiences a fall, whether they sustain an injury or not, the chances of falling again doubles.”

Dale explained after experiencing a fall, the fear of falling carries a heavy burden on an older adult’s quality of life. This fear can lead to limited activities and social engagement. Seniors who decrease these functions experience physical decline, depression and social isolation.

“However, falling is not an inevitable part of aging,” Dale said. “By making practical lifestyle adjustments and attending an evidence-based falls prevention class, falls among seniors can be reduced.”

Falls can often be prevented by making practical lifestyle changes:

Ask your health care provider to evaluate your risk of falling.

Have your pharmacist review your medication annually.

Schedule an appointment to have your eyes checked by an eye doctor and update your eyeglasses, if needed.

Do strength and balance exercises.

Make your home safer by removing things off the floor that you can trip over, ensure your home has adequate light throughout the house, install grab bars in the bathroom, and hand railings on both sides of the stairs.

In addition to making practical lifestyle changes, the Falls Prevention Program offers a falls prevention workshop called Stepping On.

Stepping On is a seven-week, evidence-based falls prevention program that reviews how to build and maintain physical strength and balance, how to choose proper footwear and how to make lifestyle modifications to remain safe in and out of the home.

The program is open to older adults or anyone with a fear of falling, who live independently in their own home, and do not rely solely on a walker or wheelchair.

Stepping On workshops are offered throughout Montana. To find the nearest workshop or for more information about the Falls Prevention Program, please visit dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/EMSTS/prevention/falls.

Or contact Dale at 406-444-0959 or Melissa.Dale@mt.gov.

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