Manali Modi

Manali Modi

Helping Seniors Regain Independence After a Hip Fracture: What You Should Know

  Mar 18, 2024

Broken bones are most prevalent among growing children accustomed to being careless when playing sports, running, jumping, etc. 

However, their injury heals fairly fast because kids’ bones are softer compared to adults.

The scenario is often the worst in the case of the elderly (those 65 years or older). 

Studies have found that at least one in four older adults witness a bone-breaking fall every year. 

The aftermath of such a fall can even lead to death but in many cases, causes acutely painful hip fractures.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 95% of hip fracture cases among the elderly are due to falling sideways. 

This health protection agency also states that 300,000 older adults are hospitalized each year due to a broken bone.

Do You Know?:
As per recent studies, it has been reported that 86% of hip fractures occur in individuals aged 65 years and older.

With age, the body’s ability to bounce back to pristine health decreases. 

However, proper aid and support should enable seniors to regain their independence in due course. 

In this article, we will discuss the complications involved with seniors’ fractures along with tips for attention and prevention.

Factors Responsible for Senior Hip Fractures

Causes Risk Factors

Here, it’s vital to remember that a fall will impact a senior’s body differently than it would a middle-aged individual or a child. 

They simply do not have the healing capacity like their younger counterparts. This means that the fall alone cannot be the prime factor in senior pelvis fractures.

Do You Know?:
Every year over 300,000 older people (65 and older) are hospitalized for hip fractures. However, among them, more than 95% of fractures are caused by falling. 

Let’s look at other factors that contribute towards a debilitating outcome –

  • Osteoporosis – the weakening of bones associated with age. This condition is more common among women than men.
  • Visual impairment
  • Lack of adequate levels of calcium in the body
  • A family history of fractures associated with osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Problems with balance and steady movements, as is the case with Parkinson’s disease
  • Disorders such as sciatica
  • Regular intake of medicines that cause drowsiness
  • Peripheral neuropathy or damage to the nerves
  • Chronic liver disease

Fracture Care and Recovery

Fracture care in hospital

In most cases involving an older adult, fractures require surgery within one to two days of the incident. 

This procedure aims to alleviate deep-seated pain, improve mobility, and reduce possible complications involved in healing.

The patient is usually assigned to an experienced acute attention nurse practitioner before, during, and even after the surgery. 

Interesting Fact:
By the age of 80, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will have sustained a hip fracture.

Many have enhanced their clinical competencies through post-master’s online acute care nurse practitioner programs after hands-on experience in advanced nursing aid.

There are virtual and on-campus immersions involved to familiarize nurses with efficient pain management, ambulation, prevention of infection, and more. 

According to Rockhurst University, nurses will not just treat the geriatric patient’s condition but their whole person through proper inquiry of their mental state.

This is primary because aging is a process that not only affects one’s physiology but also cognitive health and resilience. 

A typical nursing aid plan post-surgery would involve –

  • Acute pain assessment through checking the injury’s location, impact on movement, and intensity. 

    The nurse may also ask the patient to describe the pain as sharp, dull, burning, etc. A numerical scale can be used to verbalize the pain’s intensity.

  • Acute pain intervention through the administration of medication like painkillers and muscle relaxants. 

    The nurse will ensure the patient keeps their hip aligned by not bending much or crossing their ankles when resting. In case of any swelling, ice packs may be applied at intervals of 15 minutes.

  • Infection risk aid through assessment of the surgical site. The nurse would look for symptoms like fever, hypotension, changes in the patient’s mental state, etc.
  • Infection intervention would include proper wound aid, educating the patient on hand hygiene, and administering antibiotics.

Also, nurses will teach the patient’s family members or caregivers how to support the senior’s recovery.

Tips to Prevent Recurrence

Fractures (depending on their severity and impact on mobility) can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks to heal completely. 

In the case of older adults, only the pain begins to subside by the 6-week mark. 

Then, building leg strength to resume walking may take an additional 6 to 9 months.

the age distribution of hip fractures.

The graph above demonstrates the age distribution of hip fractures. 

Once the older adult has gradually regained their independence, it’s primary to take measures that will prevent a recurrence. 

This owes to the sad reality that recurrences among this age group are also pretty common.

Listed below are a few preventative steps to follow –

  • The first step is to maintain muscle health and bone density so that such an occurrence does not lead to fatal consequences. 

Regular bone density screenings are a must for those above the age of 65 years. Early use of osteoporosis pills and injections can reduce complications.

  • As long as possible, the elderly must move about and exercise. 

Caregivers may accompany them to nearby parks for a refreshing early morning walk or a mid-day session for physical exertion at home.

  • A healthy diet, especially rich in calcium and vitamin D will maintain bone strength naturally. 

    Foods in this category include leafy greens, probiotic yogurt, almonds, lentils and beans, red millet, and fish with edible bones.

  • Regular checks and interventions for vision impairment are also great as sharp vision can prevent a fall.
  • Older adults must avoid substance abuse like consumption of tobacco and alcohol at all costs.
  • Caregivers must keep their homes as clutter and hazard-free as possible. 

Possible hazards include slippery surfaces, unstable furniture, electrical cords, dim lighting, uneven surfaces, loose rugs, and objects lying around on the walkways.

Final Thoughts

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, over 25% of seniors experience a fall every year. Out of these, 3 million need emergency care due to severe injuries. 

If the fracture is too severe, the senior’s mobility may be permanently impacted.

Some suffer from an antalgic gait for the rest of their lives. 

Since fracture recovery is often incredibly challenging and precarious among the elderly, prevention is the best way to ensure they get the most out of their sunset years.