Preventing Hip Fractures in Older Adults

Mar 28, 2016

Preventing Hip Fractures in Older Adults

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While growing old comes with many positive things, such as grandchildren and retirement, most individuals also face the physical wear and tear of aging. Many individuals lose their eyesight, while some lose their balance.

Understanding Hip Factures in Seniors

Did you know that hip fractures kill tens of thousands of seniors a year? This is a shocking but realistic statistic that all seniors should be aware of. Educating seniors and their families on the causes of hip fractures and simple ways to prevent them may lead to a happier and healthier life-span for today’s generation of elderly individuals.

Causes of Hip Fractures

  1. Osteoporosis - A bone disease called osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of hip fractures. Osteoporosis is caused by our bodies naturally breaking down our bones. The issue with this is that when humans hit a certain age, the body begins to break down more bone than it is producing. Women are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis, but by the age of 70, men and women are typically losing bone density at the same pace, according to the National Institute of Health.
  2. Medication - A massive amount of adults over the age of 55 take prescription medication every day, and each of these medications comes with a slew of different side effects. Many of the side effects of medication can lead to a greater risk of falling, which in turn leads to a greater risk of fracturing a hip
  3. Nutrition - Just as children need different amounts of vitamins and nutrients than middle-aged adults, older adults typically need to alter their diets as well. The healthier a senior is, the less likely they will suffer from debilitating osteoporosis in their lifetime. Although, much of the risk factor for osteoporosis is decided decades prior to old age. The better nutrition an individual has throughout their entire life, the less risk of bone diseases.
  4. Gender/Heredity - Unfortunately, gender and heredity, two things that we have no control over, are a huge factor in whether or not seniors will ever be diagnosed with osteoporosis or suffer from a hip fracture. For example, individuals who are considered petite or small-framed have a greater chance of losing bone density. Gender is also a large factor due to the fact that woman lose bone density at a much quicker rate than men.
  5. Living Arrangements - Living arrangements have a lot to do with the likelihood of a senior suffering from a hip fracture. Many falls occur in the bathroom or on uncarpeted floors, when seniors are more capable of slipping.

Types of Hip Fractures

There are two main types of hip fractures that are common in seniors:

  1. Femoral Neck Fractures - Femoral Neck Fractures occur near the top of the femur, in the area between the femoral head and the trochanters. When this type of fracture occurs, blood supply is cut off to certain areas of the body, typically causing major complications. Because of this, surgery is almost always necessary.
  2. Intertrochanteric fractures - Intertrochanteric Fractures are accountable for about 50 percent of all hip fractures, and typically only affect those that are especially susceptible to hip fractures, like women or those suffering from osteoporosis. The fracture itself is located between the two trochanters. This fracture can lead to more complications, and typically requires surgery.

Hip Fracture Prevention - Fall Proof Living Arrangements

The easiest way to prevent hip fractures in seniors is by fall proofing their living arrangements. There are many precautions to take when fall proofing a home. Here are just a few:

  • Improve the lighting so the senior has greater visibility.
  • Make sure all rugs or detached carpets are secured to the floor.
  • Bathrooms should come equipped with the necessary fall proof equipment, like a chair in the shower, or grab bars to assist seniors when sitting on the toilet.
  • Bring everyday items down to a safer height. For example, if a senior enjoys coffee every morning, make sure it is within reach and not located in a higher cabinet.

Understand the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Due to the fact that everyone experiences bone loss to some extent, the early signs of osteoporosis are difficult to catch. Although seniors and loved ones of seniors should be aware of a few signs that are sure giveaways – loss of height, intense back pain and slumped over posture.

Speak to a physician

If a senior or a loved one of a senior is unsure of the individual’s likelihood of falling and suffering from a hip fracture, speak to a physician. A doctor will be able to decide whether or not certain medications or previous illnesses put them at risk.

Hip fractures don’t have to be as common as they are, and they don’t have to be a death sentence for those more susceptible. Seniors and family should both know the causes and preventative actions to help avoid hip fractures.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What treatments are available for hip fractures?

When seeking treatment for a broken hip, your doctor is likely to consider your age and physical condition before making a treatment plan. Most of the time, older people who may have additional medication issues will be provided with treatment plans based on factors such as:

  • Medications prescribed to you
  • Past surgeries to repair or replace a hip
  • Experience with physical therapy

Depending on the type of fracture you’ve suffered, the surgical solution will vary. Usually, a series of screws, rods, and locking plates will be used to stabilize and facilitate the healing of the broken portions of the femur. Screws can extend into the socket and the femur, given the site of the fracture.

Otherwise, an entire hip replacement may be the better decision, especially for intracapsular fractures. Here, the entire ball and socket of the hip are replaced with artificial components. Doctors will move forward with your treatment and recovery based on your past medical conditions and health before the injury.

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How does osteoporosis play a role in hip injuries?

Osteoporosis is a decrease in bone density and this means your bones, including your hips, can become extra fragile. Those with osteoporosis have a higher chance of injuries resulting in broken bones. Those with osteoporosis can break or fracture bones just by sneezing in some severe cases. If you are at risk of developing osteoporosis, contact your doctor to discuss which treatment options might be most appropriate for you. 

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