Hip Fractures: Common to Suffer but Hard to Overcome
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 300,000 people over the age of 65 have a hip fracture every year. At a rate of nearly 822 fractures a day, health experts agree hip fractures qualify as common medical condition and will only increase as the life expectancy grows.
Despite the frequency of the injury and remarkable advancements in medical technology, hip fractures are still extremely difficult to recover from. Part of the issue is due to age. The vast majority of people who break their hip are in their 60s or older. Bone and muscle loss over time make senior citizens more susceptible to a variety of broken bones.
Hip fractures significantly affect mobility for an extended period of time. After a hip break home modifications become a necessity and unexpected expense. When someone nearing retirement breaks their hip, it very well could end their career in the workforce. The injury is long lasting, can cause people to look for insurance or disability programs, and force them to completely edit their lifestyle. An increasing number of homes are being outfitted with grab bars and railings, while some are being built with aging-in-place design in mind to circumvent these issues.
Anyone who’s still recovering from a broken hip should never try to walk up stairs. When a hip breaks it usually involve the femur, the largest bone in the body. It also involves a large ball-and-socket joint with more range of motion than any other joint. Those that live in a two-story home may need to install a stair lift like an EasyClimber or restrict themselves to the first floor. Homeowners may also have to build a ramp if there are stairs leading into the entry of the home.
A hip fracture is a major injury and the treatments are invasive. The injury almost always requires surgery to replace or repair the hip and a short stay in the hospital. There are also a number of potential complications, such as infection, blood clots and pneumonia.
Many people never fully recover the mobility they had before the break and some need long-term living assistance. However, new discoveries are leading to personalized treatment that could improve the recovery. Radiologists at UC Davis and Wake Forest Baptist medical centers recently discovered that computed tomography (CT) scans can help detect muscle loss that influences which hip fracture treatment options will work best.
Patients and their caregivers also play an important role in recovery. Following the doctor’s directions on carrying for any wounds is necessary for preventing infections.
Restricting certain movements and refraining from putting weight on the affected leg will also aid the recovery process. Those that have their hip repaired are typically directed to not put weight on their leg for 6-8 weeks. Physical therapy should begin as soon as the patient is stabilized after surgery. An occupational therapist can help the individual get used to moving in bed and sitting up. As time passes further physical therapy will be needed to regain mobility with and without a walker.
People are urged to focus on exercises that improve balance and strength as they recover from a hip fracture. Tai chi is an excellent option for people over 65 years old. As strength improves other exercises such as yoga and walking can be added to the routine.
Preventative care is now considered crucial in the effort to reduce the number of hip fractures among senior citizens. Everyone over the age of 65 is advised to get at least 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day to support bone health and stave off osteoporosis. Women are particularly prone to falling because of osteoporosis. Not surprisingly, three quarters of hip fractures occur in women.
The major cause of hip fractures is falling. The CDC reports that 95% of hip fractures are the direct result of a fall. The more precautions that are taken to avoid falls in the home the less likely a person is to suffer a broken hip. One of the simplest and most effective measures is to ensure a home has proper lighting. With age eyesight declines. In dimly light areas elderly individuals are more likely to trip or run into objects causing a fall.
The health community is urging all individuals over the age of 65 to discuss hip fracture risks with their primary care physician. Physicians can assess fall risks by examining physical strength, eyesight and medications that are being taken.