senior man slip and fall snowChildren and young adults who break a bone often recover quickly. Once casted, the bones heal and the same level of pre-injury function returns, perhaps after physical therapy treatment.

On the other hand, broken bones and fractures among the elderly can be life-changing, if not fatal events. Every year, one-third of people over 65 experience a fall. These incidents are one of the leading causes of trauma-related hospitalizations for the elderly.

With these factors in mind, what should you know for the health and safety of older loved ones?

Elevated Death Risks

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, broken bones have a long-lasting effect in older individuals. Specifically, this injury can increase death risk for up to 10 years after the incident and may be a catalyst for other adverse health events.

For this study, researchers examined individuals in Denmark over the age of 50 who had experienced their first fragility fracture in 2001 and traced their fatality risks for 10 years after the incident. The results showed varied risk, based on the bones fractured. Men who broke a hip had a 33 percent increased risk of death, while women’s risk increased 20 percent.

Femur and pelvic fractures were the next group, elevating men’s risks by 20 percent and women’s risk by 25 percent. Overall, patients who experienced a hip fracture in 2001 were still at high risk up to 10 years after the incident and all other fractures dropped the risk down to five years.

Injury Alters Lifestyle

About 250,000 hip fractures occur among adults 50 and older in the US annually, with the average patient hospitalized for two weeks. Half the individuals hospitalized are unable to return home or live independently afterward.

Many elderly adults already have a limited lifestyle, which affects their ability to recover. Adults who have a particularly difficult time recuperating from a hip fracture likely already experience challenges bathing, eating and walking, and may require at-home care or short-term rehabilitation.

Ways to Reduce Falls and Fractures

Improved lighting and the elimination of certain trip hazards in the home is a start, but further measures may be needed to help reduce fall risks:

  • Physical Activity: Certain routines help seniors build strength, flexibility and stay mobile. According to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, low-impact activity improves recovery rates after a fracture and reduces fall risks.
  • Paying Attention to Medication Side Effects: Seniors may want to consider reducing the number of medications with drowsiness as a side effect, as this increases fall risks and potential injuries.
  • Getting Appropriate Medical Treatment: A greater risk for women over 65 is a decrease in bone density and strength, which increases the chance of fractures. Factors like smoking, alcohol use, poor nutrition, low body weight and a history of fractures may also increase an individual’s risk. A bone density screening can assess a patient’s bone mass and risk for fracture.
  • Modifying the Home: For instance, you may need to have grab bars, a wheelchair ramp or shower seat installed to accommodate reduced mobility.

To improve your chances of recovery after a fracture or broken bone, short-term rehabilitation services can help. To learn what West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation has to offer, contact us today.