Hip fractures and seniors can be very serious. When a person has a fractured hip at a young age, they’re likely to recover without much of a concern. But seniors are an entirely different scenario. Common and painful, a broken or fractured hip can be a sign of:
- Loss of muscle control
- Nerve issues
- Other conditions
When a senior’s mobility is lessened, this can also be a cause for concern because the senior will be at a higher risk of falling. A senior that is at a higher risk of falls will be at a higher risk of breaking a hip, and a broken hip can lead to:
- Further mobility loss
- Loss of confidence
Mortality rates are also impacted as a result of a hip fracture. Studies show that the majority of hip fractures occur in seniors aged 65 or older (87% to 96% of all fractures). Mortality rate in hip fractures are three-fold higher than a person in the general population.
Complications led to higher mortality, such as infections, heart failure and pulmonary embolism.
Annually, over 300,000 people over the age of 65 enter the hospital because of a hip fracture. Falls are the leading cause of a fracture, with 95% of fractures due to a fall. Women are at a much higher risk of fracture due to higher rates of osteoporosis, or a condition that causes the bone to become brittle. Brittle bones fracture and break with greater ease, leading to a much higher risk of injury or breaks as a result.
Women also fall more often, leading to higher complications from falls.
Fractures in seniors have decreased in the last decade, but still, 25% of geriatric fractures will require hospital admission.
Risks of Falls and Fractures
Seniors have one main reason for hip fractures: falls. It becomes a necessity that seniors learn why falls happen and do their best to try and prevent falls in the future. Numerous personal risks for falls exist, and the most common reasons for falls occurring are:
- Vision. As a person’s vision decreases, they will be at a higher risk of tripping and falling. Not being able to see as well as in the past is common as a person ages, and continual eye exams will be able to reduce the risk of vision problems leading to falls and increased injury.
- Muscle loss. Muscle mass will decrease as a senior ages, and this will lead to gradual muscle loss that can lead to weak muscles. The legs are the most common area where muscle loss will lead to a fall.
- Balance issues. A person that has balance issues may have a medical condition that is causing the issues, or weak muscles, especially in the hips and core, may be the culprit.
- Dizziness. Age-related health issues or medical conditions can lead to dizziness and eventually falling over. Postural hypertension is one of the main reasons that a person will become dizzy and fall over.
- Blood pressure. A common cause of dizziness. Blood pressure may drop as a person stands up, causing a person to feel faint and fall over in some circumstances.
- Reflexes. A person’s reflexes will begin to slow as they get older, and this can make it more difficult to regain balance. If a person cannot regain balance, there may be a higher risk of falls as well as a higher risk of more serious injuries.
Environmental factors can also lead to falls, and these are easy to fix. A few of the environmental factors that can lead directly to falls include:
- Poor lighting
- Loose carpets that lead to trips
- Clutter that leads to trips
- Lack of access to grab bars or rails
A person that wants to reduce their risk of falling in their home can opt to:
- Increase lighting so that the floor is visible
- Replace or fix loose carpeting
- Remove obstacles and tight areas that can lead to falls
- Install grab bars in the bathroom
- Install railing where steps are located
When bone loss or medical conditions are the cause of a fracture or fall, doctors can recommend a variety of treatments, such as bisphosphonates which reduce bone loss, or hormones which will help combat the risk of osteoporosis.
Calcitonin can also be used to promote calcium regulation.
Surgery and Hip Fractures
Hip fractures may require surgery, and this is necessary to repair a break. The type of surgery performed will depend on the fracture, and this may include:
- Pinning if the fracture is at the femur’s neck
- Plates and screws for fractures below the femur’s neck
In both cases, surgery will last hours and the doctor will try to correct the position of the hip. Full hip replacement may also be an option, but a patient must consider his or her options carefully because a full hip replacement is a serious surgical procedure.
Full hip replacement is required if the ball portion of the joint was damaged in the fall.
You’ll want to discuss your options with your doctor at this point to ensure you choose the right surgery.
After surgery, the patient will be at a risk of complications. It’s important to know that the patient will be confined to a wheelchair or bed for quite some time, and this will lead to further muscle loss.
Surgery will always come with risks, and these include the formation of blood clots, infections at the incision site and other fractures that may have occurred during the surgery. It’s important that pain be treated following surgery, and this may include:
- Pain relievers
Proper treatment and care following surgery is a must, and this would include rehabilitation. Therapy will help a person rebuild the muscle lost after surgery and learn how to walk after the procedure has been performed.
Hip fractures are not something that an elderly person can ignore once they occur. Forgoing medical attention can lead to further complications and injuries that will have a lasting impact on the senior that has been involved in the incident.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.