More than 300,000 Americans 65 and older are hospitalized each year for hip fractures. It’s a statistic many of us take for granted. However, because this type of injury is so common among seniors, we might be surprised to learn just how life-changing a hip fracture can be. Tragically, seniors and their families often fail to take proper precautions until it’s too late.
That’s the sobering conclusion from this newly-published article on the website HealthDay. The harsh reality, according to research just released, is that at least half of hip-fracture sufferers “will never return to their former levels of independence and physical activity,” HealthDay reported – in spite of the best hopes of patients and their loved ones. For older seniors (those 85 or older) or seniors suffering from other conditions including dementia, the recovery rate is even lower.
According to Dr. Victoria Tang of the University of California San Francisco, understanding this low recovery rate from hip fracture is important to seniors and those who care for them. “By being able to set realistic expectations of the likelihood of recovery, as family members, we can take steps to plan and prepare for future care needs of the patient,” Tang said. We would add the important fact that the dangers of hip fracture, even for otherwise healthy seniors, makes it imperative that people take preventive steps now in their homes and in their health care to minimize the risk of this devastating injury. More on that in a moment.
In conducting the study, Dr. Tang and her colleagues examined 730 adults over 65 who had sustained a hip fracture. The study evaluated their health before and after the injury. For example, could the patient walk around the block or climb stairs before their hip fracture? Afterwards, could they function independently and perform all the normal activities of daily living? The results were not encouraging. “The researchers found that the likelihood of recovery to the pre-fracture level of function was less than 50 percent regardless of previous ability level,” HealthDay reported. “Even for those who were very physically active before their injury, outcomes were only slightly better.” In other words, being physically healthy is no guarantee that you will avoid long-lasting effects of a fractured hip.
The reasons older adults are at greater risk of a hip fracture are generally well-understood. As we age, our gait (how we walk) changes. Our muscles tend to weaken and we tend to lose bone mass which in turn contributes to osteoporosis. As bones become weaker and more brittle, the hip bone is at greater risk for fracture. Three-fourths of hip fractures happen to women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For us here at AgingOptions, as we advise seniors and their families, there are two major take-aways from an article like this, both of which revolve around the idea of prevention. The first idea is to make sure you or your loved one is staying healthy. Maintaining your strength, eating well, getting plenty of sleep and taking the right supplements can help greatly to reduce your risk of falling, which is the cause of 95 percent of hip fractures. We always recommend as emphatically as possible that seniors consult regularly with a geriatric physician (or geriatrician), a specialist who understands better than any regular doctor the medical needs of aging adults. This type of specialist will be immeasurably helpful as the “quarterback” of your medical team, helping you avoid the pain of unplanned institutional care – something that all too often can be the result from after-effects of a fractured hip. If you’ll call our office we will gladly refer you to a geriatrician in your area.
The second take-away from the HealthDay article is that you as a senior (or as someone caring for an elder adult) need to make certain your home is a safe environment for you to age in place. Improvements can include installation of grab bars, elimination of area rugs that can be trip hazards, and replacement of entry stairs with ramps. Once again, prevention of hip fractures is the key. If you will contact our office we can provide helpful information that will guide you into making your home, or the home of your loved one, safer and more aging-ready.
Guiding you in your retirement planning is our passion here at AgingOptions. As important as your housing choices are, they represent only one facet of a well-rounded retirement plan. If you wish to protect your assets in retirement and avoid becoming a burden to those you love, you’ll need to answer other important questions beyond those pertaining to housing. Are your financial plans fully prepared? Have you taken your legal needs into account? Is your family aware of your wishes? Do you have the right amount and type of medical insurance? All of these become part of what we call a LifePlan, designed to help you enter retirement with confidence. There’s a simple way to explore this concept further: register today to attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. In just a few hours you’ll learn valuable information that we promise will help you prepare for retirement in a brand new and more comprehensive way. Register online by clicking the Upcoming Events tab, or call us during the week. It will be a pleasure meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon.
(originally reported at https://consumer.healthday.com)