National Falls Prevention Awareness Week is observed Sept. 18 – 24 this year, and the Billings Fire Department is using this week to bring attention to the incident that makes up 55% of its response log.
“In Billings, the number one call for service that we go on is falls,” said Cameron McCamley, EMS coordinator for the Billings Fire Department.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults.
McCamley said this is a growing concern as the city’s baby boomer generation climbs in age.
“It’s something we’re going to encounter a lot more,” McCamley said.
Some of those calls come from the individual who fell, a family member or friend, medical alert devices, and more recently, smart watches equipped with fall detection.
Aside from technology, prevention education is just as important.
“There are classes offered in Yellowstone County with movement and exercise to help you balance. The other cool thing that those classes teach is how to fall. So if you do fall, how would you best protect yourself, your hands, your wrists, your hips, and reduce those injuries,” McCamley said.
According to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, 1,900 Montanans were hospitalized in 2020 due to unintentional falls.
The Billings Fire Department’s Assistant Fire Chief of EMS Jason Banfield points out that over half of falls happen at home.
He suggests making simple changes at home can decrease the risk of falling, including:
- Remove tripping hazards such as papers, books, clothes, and shoes
- Tape or tack down or remove rugs
- Replace dim or non-functioning light bulbs
- Put handrails on all stairs and steps
- Install grab bars next to your toilet and in the tub and shower
According to MT DPHHS, the rate of hospitalizations starts to climb at age 55.
The risk of death for someone 85 and older after breaking a hip is extremely high.
The National Council on Aging offers a risk assessment that includes 13 questions and offers a fall risk score and provides resources.
Falls prevention classes in Montana can be found at this link: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/EMSTS/Prevention/FallPrevention/FallsPreventionClasses