Fractures are a common and problematic event for older adults. More than 2 million fragility fractures occur in the U.S. each year. Despite this, roughly 80 percent of older Americans who experience a fragility fracture are never tested or treated for osteoporosis.
Fragility fractures are broken bones caused by a fall from no greater than standing height but they aren’t just as a result of a fall. They can also result from a sneeze, cough, an over extended stretch or rolling over in bed. The most common types of fractures of this sort occur to wrist, spine and hip but they can occur elsewhere and can contribute to other serious health problems including death. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), half of all women and a quarter of all men will suffer at least one fragility fracture after age 50. Those individuals with a previous fragility fracture have an increased chance of having another fragility fracture.
Falls are responsible for 70 percent of accidental deaths in people over 75 years old. As the population ages, the number of older patients sustaining a fragility fracture will increase. Older patients who have fallen should undergo a thorough evaluation to determine and treat the underlying cause of the fall and help the patient reduce the risk of recurring falls.
For older adults looking to stay independent and reduce their chances of falling:
If you don’t already have a Geriatric Physician, consider switching to one. A comprehensive geriatric assessment is often considered impractical in a primary care setting but can be essential to an older patient’s success in remaining at home and independent. Additional steps to take:
- Find an exercise program that focuses on increasing leg strength and improving balance.
- Have your doctor or pharmacist review your medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
- Get your eyes checked on a regular basis.
- Hire an Occupational Therapist to do a home evaluation to look for hazardous situations in your home and make home modifications.
- Get screened and, if needed, treated for osteoporosis.
To get more information on Geriatric Physicians or Geriatric Care Managers, contact our office.