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. A recent report showed that falls are the third leading cause of accidental deaths for older adults in Montana. DPHHS Healthy Living Program Manager Melissa Dale says falling is not a normal part of aging. She says there are some practical life style changes people can do to prevent falls.

“Talk with your healthcare provider and have them evaluate your risk of falls,” Dale said. “if you do have a risk, they can either refer you to a physical therapist or a class. Have your pharmacist review your medication annually because there are some medications that can make you a little more unbalanced. If they can look at those and help you adjust them, that is a great way to prevent falls.”

According to Dale, exercise is one of the most important ways to lower your chances of falling.

“They can be very basic exercises like lifting your toes or your heels and walking side by side,” Dale said. “We want you to keep moving and maintaining some strength and balance. Schedule an appointment with your optometrist and update your eye glasses if you need to because if you are not seeing properly, you might miss a step and we don’t want you to do that.”

About half of all falls happen at home. Dale says it is really important that folks make their home as safe as possible.

“Remove things off the floor that you could trip over like magazines, newspapers and throw rugs,” Dale said. “Make sure you have adequate light in your house. Install grab bars in your bathroom. There are so many other things you could do, but those are the three basic things you could do to prevent falls in your own home.”

In addition, the Falls Prevention Program offers a falls prevention workshop called Stepping On. Stepping On is a seven-week, evidence-based falls prevention program. They review 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. Stepping On is available in Missoula at the Community Medical Center, Missoula Aging Services and Missoula Parks and Recreation.