September 18 – 24 is National Falls Prevention Awareness Week, and the Billings Fire Department is taking advantage of the week to bring attention to these incidents. Victoria Hill with the city of Billings reports that 55% of response logs are from falls.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Coordinator for the fire department, Cameron McCamley, says falls are the number one calls for service they receive in Billings. With the baby boomer generation becoming older, McCamley says it is something they will likely encounter a lot more. Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal and fatal incidents for older adults. Most calls reporting a fall are from a friend or family member, medical alert devices, or the individual who fell. Some calls are from smart watch devices that have fall detection.

For older individuals, the risk of a fall can be severe. The risk of death after breaking a hip for people over 85 is very high. 

The Montana Department of Health and Human Services estimates 1,900 Montanans were hospitalized in 2020 from unintentional falls. 74% of falls in 2020 were from ages 65 and older, and 56% were women. The rate of hospitalizations increases once a person reaches the age of 55. Unintentional falls are the state’s third most common cause of injury-related deaths, after firearms and motor vehicle crashes. 

Fortunately, a few things can help lower the risk of unintentional falls. Assistant Fire Chief of EMS from the fire department suggests making simple changes at home, like putting handrails on stairs and steps, installing grab bars next to the toilet, bathtub, and shower, and replacing light bulbs that are dim or no longer working. Other changes include taping, tacking down, or removing rugs and tripping hazards, like books, shoes, clothes, etc. 

Other ways to prevent falls include maintaining an exercise program, having your vision and hearing checked, talking with your healthcare provider, or reviewing medications with your pharmacist or doctor. McCamley also adds that classes are available in Yellowstone County with exercise and movements that help with balance. 

Click here to find fall prevention classes in counties across Montana. The National Council on Aging also has a risk assessment that others can do to find their fall score and provide resources.