Vail Daily column: Hip fractures are a serious risk for elderly

In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was found that “by 90 years of age, one out of four women and one out of eight men will have a hip fracture.” And to make that figure even more significant, nine out of 10 hip fractures occur in folks older than 60 years old.

Those figures are scary. Few, if any of us, would argue with the facts of medical deterioration of the human body over time … areas such as eyesight, balance and coordination all decline with age; and all have major impact on the increase of the risk of us falling (which is how most hip fractures happen).

Here is a brief list of other risks for suffering a broken hip:

• Osteoporosis (bones become weaker during this disease).

• Sex (that’s right, loss of bone density due to decrease in estrogen).

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• Heredity (small boned, slender-framed people — Caucasians and Asians more likely to experience hip fractures).

• Nutrition (poor eating habits while a child, as well as eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia can damage bones).

• Tobacco and alcohol use in excess can lead to bone loss.

• Home environment (throw rugs on polished floors that can slip, errant electrical wires, etc., increase risk of falling).

• Medical conditions (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia and even depression).

Treatment almost always involves surgery and can be quite common. It is typically a simple procedure, yet the recovery comes with complications, such as “blood clots, infection and pneumonia.” Patients frequently experience a short hospital stay followed by a period of rehabilitation at a specialized center/skilled unit of a nursing home. Most often, physical therapists will have the patient follow up with therapy a few times per week for a number of weeks.

Prevention is difficult due to the many physical body issues that occur as we age and are simply not preventable. Yet, many other potential causes of falling (resulting in hip fractures) can be addressed. Here are some simple and quick suggestions that can be taken to help:

• Lighting should not be too dim or too direct — make sure light switches are accessible.

• Carpets and rugs should be tacked down.

• Bathrooms should have a chair for bathing or skid-resistant mats, grab bars should be placed where needed and the toilet seat needs to be tall enough for easy transferring.

• Chairs need to be stable (without wheels) and have arm rests.

• Kitchen items that are frequently used should be at waist level or on low shelves, a rubber mat should be placed in front of the sink and non-slip wax should be used on the floor.

• Stairways need handrails and steps should not be slippery.

Although, as previously mentioned, many deteriorating physical aspects often contribute to the increase in falling risks (decline in eyesight, coordination, etc.), that doesn’t mean that your elder should forego regular physicals and exams. Staying as healthy as possible is also important; exercise regularly by walking, stretching and lifting weights.

These factors are all relevant in warding off falls, thus reducing hip fractures. Finally, don’t forget to eat properly. Health, in all its forms, is one of the best ways to prevent falls.

Because of the services I provide and resources available, I get a number of calls from peers and contemporaries (the Sandwich Generation as we seem to be called) asking about what can be done to assist their “senior” parents and where information can be found. Here is one fabulous place.

Senior Health Fair

On Sept. 20, Eagle County Paramedic Service, Eagle County Human Health and Colorado Mountain College will be holding the ninth annual Senior Health Fair. This year, there will be a panel of specialists speaking. Topics include:

• Conservative low back pain management and prevention.

• Chronic pain management with spine stimulators, and DBS treatments for Parkinson’s and essential tremor.

• Balance and subjects related to podiatry.

• Physical therapy and techniques that lend to greater strength and stability.

This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn, ask questions and find resources.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Visit or call 970-328-5526 for more information.

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