As the human body enters advanced age, it loses the ability to recover from once-mild injuries, let alone prevent them in the first place. In fact, falls — occurrences that rarely injure adolescents, young adults and middle-aged adults — frequently become severe injuries in seniors. Falls among skilled nursing home residents in Texas lead to one of the most deadly senior injuries — broken hips.
Understanding the hip
The second-largest joint in the body, the hip uses a ball-and-socket mechanism to allow upper leg movement and support the weight of the body. It’s responsible for functions like climbing stairs, walking and squatting.
A ball on the upper end of the femur — the femoral head — fits into a rounded socket in the hip — the acetabulum — in the pelvic region. Ligaments keep these bones in place, allowing the hip joint to work.
Why do hip fractures plague nursing home residents?
Hip fractures don’t just afflict the elderly in general — they’re particularly prevalent among senior-age nursing home residents. Anywhere from 12% to 37% of seniors who experienced hip fractures end up dying from the injury and 33% of female and nearly 50% of male nursing home residents die within 180 days of incurring a broken hip.
Osteoporosis causes weak, brittle bones and is especially common among seniors. Nursing home residents often take several medications, some of which cause mental fog, drowsiness or dizziness, increasing the risk of falls. Unsafe nursing home environments with trip hazards can also lead to nursing home hip fractures.
Preventing broken hips in seniors
Decluttering seniors’ surroundings, installing mobility aids like handrails and grab bars and improving indoor lighting all reduce the chance of falls — not just broken hips, specifically. Moderate, age-appropriate exercise can slow the progression of osteoporosis and boost muscle strength, coordination and balance. Stair-climbing, swimming, dancing and lightweight training are all great exercise options — better yet, many nursing homes offer age-appropriate group exercise opportunities. Finally, wearing hip protectors, a type of padded undergarment, can also reduce the likelihood of hip fracture following a fall.
Although there’s no way to prevent all injuries, making nursing home residents aware of broken hips and educating seniors and care providers about preventative measures can help prevent broken hips in seniors.