Hip Fractures in the Elderly
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found in one of their studies that “by 90 years of age, one out of four women and one out of eight men will have a hip fracture.” And to make that figure even more significant, nine out of ten hip fractures occur in folks over the age of 60.
For me, those figures are scary. Maybe it’s time we reviewed this far too common medical event?
Few, if any of us, would argue with the facts of medical deterioration of the human body over time … areas such as eye sight, balance, and coordination all decline with age; and all have major impact on the increase of the risk of us falling (which is how most hip fractures happen).
Here is a brief list of other risks for suffering a broken hip:
- Osteoporosis (bones become weaker during this disease)
- Sex (that’s right, loss of bone density due to decrease in estrogen)
- Heredity (small boned, slender-framed people -- Caucasians and Asians more likely to experience hip fractures)
- Nutrition (poor eating habits while a child, as well as eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia can damage bones)
- Tobacco and alcohol use in excess can lead to bone loss
- Home environment (throw rugs on polished floors that can slip, errant electrical wires, etc. increase risk of falling)
- Medical conditions (Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and even depression)
Treatment almost always involves surgery and can be quite common. It is typically a simple procedure, yet the recovery is fraught with complications; such as “blood clots, infection, and pneumonia.” Patients experience hospital stays of approximately four or more days initially followed by a month or so of rehabilitation in a specialized center/skilled unit of a nursing home. Finally, physical therapists will follow the patient home two or three times per week for therapy (Visiting Angels is often involved at this point in time).
Prevention is difficult due to the many physical body issues that occur as we age and are simply not preventable. Yet, many other potential causes of falling (resulting in hip fractures) can be addressed, such as:
- Lighting should not be too dim or too direct – make sure light switches are accessible
- Carpets and rugs should be tacked down
- Bathrooms should have a chair for bathing or skid-resistant mats, grab bars should be placed where needed and the toilet seat needs to be tall enough for easy transferring
- Chairs need to be stable (without wheels) and have arm rests
- Kitchen items that are frequently used should be at waist level or on low shelves, a rubber mat should be placed in front of the sink and non-slip wax should be used on the floor
- Stairways need handrails and steps should not be slippery.
Although, as mentioned above, many deteriorating physical aspects often contribute to the increase in falling risks (decline in eye sight, coordination, etc.), that doesn’t mean that your elder should forego regular physicals and exams. And, trying to stay as healthy as possible is also important; exercise regularly by walking, stretching, and weight lifting.
These factors are all relevant in warding off falls, thus reducing hip fractures. Finally, don’t forget to eat properly. Health, in all its forms, is one of the best ways to prevent falls.
(Much of the information above was taken from A Place for Mom, Inc., the nation’s largest elder care referral network, at: http://nursing-homes.aplaceformom.com/articles/hip-fractures-in-the-elderly/)