The Basics of Broken Hips

Some practical suggestions for helping a loved one who has broken a hip, including tips for helping avoid future falls.

If someone you love breaks a hip, you are not alone. On average, 300,000 Americans break a hip each year. Treatment of a hip fracture is a relatively straightforward procedure; common methods of treatment include the placement of a screw into the thigh bone (or femur), or replacement of the entire head of the femur with a joint prosthesis (a hip replacement).

According to Dr. Jonathan Cluett, an orthopedic surgeon, while the treatments are not technically too complicated, the mortality after a hip fracture is surprisingly high. Mortality rates in the first year following a hip fracture are around 25 percent, and the rates are highest in older populations. The cause of mortality is often due to blood clots, pneumonia, or infection.

After one year, mortality rates return to normal, but a patient who previously broke a hip is at higher risk of breaking a hip again.

As the caregiver of someone with a broken hip, there are a number of things you can do that will make caregiving easier.

Before Surgery

  • Learn what to expect before, during, and after surgery. Request information written for patients from the doctor.
  • Make arrangements to help your loved one around the house for a week or two after coming home from the hospital. If you or another family member cannot do this, consider hiring a home care worker from a licensed agency.
  • Make sure the person has transportation to and from the hospital.
  • Set up a “recovery station” at home. Place the television remote control, radio, telephone, medicine, tissues, wastebasket, and pitcher and glass next to the spot where your loved one will spend the most time.
  • Have the care recipient place the items used every day at arm level, so he or she can avoid reaching up or bending down.
  • Stock up on kitchen staples and prepare food in advance, such as frozen casseroles or soups that can be reheated and served easily.

After Surgery

  • The majority of patients require prolonged specialized care, such as a long-term nursing or time in a rehabilitation facility. Research your options in advance. Which ones will your loved one’s insurance pay for?
  • Help your loved one follow the doctor’s instructions by making sure you understand them clearly. If necessary, call the doctor for clarification.
  • Anticipate problems your loved one will have getting to and from the toilet. Recovering from a broken hip is, by definition, to have a mobility problem.
  • Support the patient’s effort to work with a physical therapist to rehabilitate the hip. Only about 25 percent of patients return to their pre-injury level of activity; loss of mobility can lead to other problems.
  • Take measures to prevent your loved one from getting pneumonia or an infection. Older patients with impaired mobility are particularly susceptible to pneumonia.

Preventing Falls

People who have broken a hip have a greater probability of falling again. Here are some suggestions for preventing future accidents

  • Suggest that your loved one wear an apron for carrying things around the house. This leaves hands and arms free for balance or to use crutches.
  • Invest in a long-handled “reacher” to help your loved one turn on lights or grab things that are beyond arm’s length.
  • Use a bathtub stool, handheld showerhead, non-slip mats, and grab bars in the bathroom.
  • When your loved one gets out of bed, encourage him or her to get up slowly to avoid sudden dizziness.
  • Install night-lights to help prevent falls in the dark.
  • If your loved one has a pet, he or she should be especially aware of where the pet is at all times. Animals underfoot can cause serious falls.
  • Store commonly used items at waist level. Make sure your loved one uses a stable step stool with handrails if he or she must reach items stored in high places.
  • Do not wax kitchen or bathroom floors.
  • Make sure your loved one wears shoes that fit well and slippers that have non-slip soles.
  • Discourage your loved one from going outside if there’s ice on the ground. Slippery steps and sidewalks are one of the leading causes of serious falls.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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