There is a common perception of ‘doom’ with regards to older adults who fall and fracture a hip. The consensus seems to be that it is an almost non-recoverable injury. Either we’ve had family or friends sustaining the injury that have just never been the same — or we’ve never really met or heard of an older adult who had a full and successful recovery. The statistics are likely contributing to the common gloomy perception. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, of the nearly 300,000 Americans 65 or older who fracture a hip each year, 20-30% of them die within 12 months of the fracture. This is due to the fact that older adults often have multiple ailments or chronic conditions at the same time — such as diabetes or heart disease — making it difficult for their system to recover and deal with additional stressors. Surgery can carry huge risks, and immobility can lead to bed sores and pneumonia.
The statistics of those surviving a hip fracture can be daunting as well.
A year after a hip fracture…
- 90% who can independently climb stairs before will not be able to climb five stairs after
- 66% won’t be able to get on or off a toilet without help
- 50% won’t be able to raise themselves from a chair
- 31% won’t be able to get out of bed without assistance
- 20% won’t be able to put on a pair of pants by themselves
Studies have shown that it is possible to beat the odds. A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the risk of death from a hip fracture declined by 19% when surgery was performed within three days of the fracture. The answers lie within the immediate response to the hip fracture as well as the measures taken in the weeks and months that follow. The typical response is surgery within 48 hours, two to six weeks in a subacute rehabilitation facility, followed by three to four weeks of outpatient rehabilitation. Problems can often arise because of the attitude of the patient combined with caregivers setting the bar too low. The patient often feels happy enough just to be home again and pain free; however, this is really when the real work begins! The fear of falling again can sometimes prevail and prevent the patient from staying active and maintaining pre-fracture mobility. Some patients seem to think because they are older, partial recovery is okay. Patients and caregivers often don’t push hard enough to get to where they were before surgery.
Tips for a Full Recovery Include…
Exercise Daily – Weight-bearing activity stimulates bones to heal. Start slowly and gradually increase the amount of weight you put on your hip. Bones heal best when they are put to use.
Watch What You Eat – Make sure you eat enough protein to build up your muscles as well as enough calcium and vitamin D to strengthen your bones. A daily intake of 1,200 milligrams of Calcium, 800 international units of vitamin D and 50-70 grams of protein should suffice.
Attitude & Perseverance – Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are all better as soon as your therapy has come to an end. Therapy is hard work, but even harder is the challenge of self-therapy. Staying active by continuing the therapy on your own after the supervised therapy has ended will put you on the path to a full recovery and ensure the muscles and bones grow stronger. Remaining social and engaged is not only good for the mind and esteem; it also encourages you to get out of the house and keeps you moving and inspired.
Don’t let the statistics get you down. With a positive attitude, good exercise tools, and a little perseverance – a hip fracture is not the end of your world…it’s an injury you can and will certainly recover from.
Research & Community Education