During the winter months, one hazard of caregiving in colder climates is the increased risk of falls leading to fractures, especially hip fractures. Older women who break a hip may be five times more likely to die within a year than their healthy-hipped peers, according to new research.
A study of nearly 10,000 women done by Kaiser Permanente found that for women ages 65-69, a hip fracture boosts the risk of dying within a year by five times. It doubles the risk of death for women ages 70-79. The question becomes: Why does this increased death risk exist?
Erin LeBlanc, MD, MPH, the lead author of the study offered some insight into why breaking a hip is so dangerous in a September, 2011 article from agingcare.com. According to her, the risk lies in the forced immobility caused by a fracture.
“Any time you’re immobile, you’re more at risk for infections, and blood clotting. Your nutrition is going to go down because you’re not feeling well, and that puts the body in a weaker spot to be able to fight infections or fight any sort of illness that might come on,” she says.
Dr. LeBlanc said she hopes that the study’s findings will encourage doctors and their elderly patients to be more proactive with regards to preventing hip fractures and, if that fails, improving post-fracture care.
There are plenty of places to get information about fall prevention. A good place to start is http://www.learnnottofall.com, a non-profit website. Other sources are the Home Safety Checklist of the non-profit organization, Rebuilding Together, in collaboration with the U.S. Administration on Aging (http://www.rebuildingtogether.org/section/init … /safehomes), and the Preventing Falls and Fractures list from the National Institute on Aging (http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/falls-and-fractures).
Fall prevention looks at the lifestyle of the patient as well as the conditions of his or her home and surroundings. Things such as overall mobility, medications and eating habits can all contribute to falls. Even eye glass prescriptions can be at fault, so be sure to keep your loved one’s up to date.
Two chapters in my audio books, Blueprint for Elder Caregiving and Blueprint for Dementia Caregiving are dedicated to the causes and prevention of falls. Those audio books, or their data CD counterparts, are available at http://www.blueprintforcaregiving.com.
Finally, there are many websites which offer fall monitoring and prevention equipment. Go to your favorite search engine and type in “fall prevention” and you’ll have a long list to choose from.
Falls generally mean fractures in elderly people, so be pro-active in doing what you can to prevent your loved one from falling.
My husband has recently started imagining injuries that don’t exist. First he thought he needed both knees replaced. Now he believes he has fractured 2 ribs. As a consequence of these imagined injuries he no longer spends time with his friends. Has anyone else experience this kind of behavior?
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