Hip Fractures and Older Individuals: What You Need to Know

The risk of hip fractures among older individuals is a matter that needs to be a primary focus of caretakers for people in their Golden Years, including family members as well as staff and others associated with assisted living communities. In this article, we provide you with an overview of some of the key facts and factors associated with hip fractures and older individuals that you need to know as a caregiver or other family member of an individual in his or her Golden Years.

Frank Facts About Hip Fractures

Each year in the United States a stunning 300,000 people over the age of 65 are hospitalized for hip fractures. 95 percent of hip fractures are the result of falling. Typically, hip fractures occur when an individual falls sideways.

75 percent of all hip fractures are experienced by women. Women fall more often than men. In addition, women are more likely to have osteoporosis, a disease that causes a weakening of bones and makes them more apt to fracture. The risk of a person breaking his or her hip increases as he or she grows older. 

There is an increased mortality rate among older people who suffer a hip fracture. According to the National Institutes of Health, what it calls excess mortality” among individuals who experience hip fractures is due to associated complications that include:

  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Infections
  • Heart failure

More Facts About Falls

While the focus of this article is on hip fractures among older individuals, the reality is that a person in his or her Golden Years might suffer other injuries as the result of a fall. This includes injuries in addition to a broken hip. It also includes injuries that might happen in the absence of a broken hip but nonetheless be serious:

  • Three million people over the age of 65 are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries.
    800,000 patients are hospitalized annually as the result of fall injuries (most often for hip fracture or head injury).
  • Falls are the most frequent causes of traumatic brain injuries.
  • The total costs for medical care associated with falls is over $60 million annually. Three-quarters of these expenses are paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. 

Lifestyle Strategies and Tactics to Maintain Bone Health and Lower Risk of Falls

If you are an older individual at greater risk for falling and sustaining a broken hip, there are some lifestyle strategies and tactics that you need to consider implementing. These strategies and tactics can be helpful in maintaining bone health as well as in lowering the risk of falls that can result in a broken hip.

Get enough calcium and vitamin D daily. Both men and women alike who have reached the age of 50 and older should consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day and 600 international units of vitamin D a day.

Regular exercise to strengthen bones and improve balance is vital. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, help maintain and enhance bone density. Exercise also increases overall strength and decreases the risk of falling. Balance training also is important to reduce the risk of falls. You need to keep in mind that balance tends to deteriorate with age.

A key to maintaining bone health and lower the risk of falling is to avoid smoking or excessive drinking. Tobacco and alcohol use can reduce bone density. Drinking too much alcohol can also impair balance and increase the risk of falling.

Assessing a residence (or assisted living facility) for hazards is another means of lowering the risk of falls that have the potential for causing hip fractures. Examples of action that might need to be taken in a home or assisted living facility include:

  • Removal of throw rugs from the premises
  • Keep electrical cords against the wall
  • Clear excess furniture from the premises
  • Remove other items from the floor that a person might trip over
  • Maintain clear pathways throughout the premises
  • Keep rooms in the premises well lit
  • Add grab bars inside and outside of a bathtub or shower
  • Add grab gars next to the toilet
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs

In addition to the tactics outlined thus far, another step to take to lower the risk of falling and associated injuries (including a hip fractures) is to ensure that an older individual has an eye examination annually. A person diagnosed with diabetes or some type of eye disease should have an eye examination more than once a year. 

If an individual is unsteady when walking, or has started to lack confidence in walking safely, a cane, walking stick, or walker might be necessary. A healthcare provider or an occupational therapist can provide information and guidance regarding what type of walking aid might be of greatest assistance to an individual in this type of situation.