The Danger of a Broken Hip
The chances of fracturing a hip increase as a person ages. The injury is considered among the most serious consequences of a fall because many people cannot live on their own afterward.
• More than 300,000. The number of people 65 and older hospitalized each year for hip fractures.
• 95 percent. The rate of hip fractures that come from falling, usually sideways.
• Three quarters. The percentage of all hip fractures that women suffer, in part because they are more prone to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes bones more porous and fragile.
Falls are by far the leading cause of injury among older adults, leading to 3.1 million emergency room visits and more than 34,000 deaths among Americans ages 65 and older in 2019, the most recent data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I use the phrase, ‘Fall is a four-letter word,’ ” says Lisa Caruso, a geriatrician at Boston Medical Center who also holds a master’s degree in public health. “Falls are definitely something we ask about and want to prevent.”
That’s because mobility is key to independent living.
When people begin to lose their balance or fall frequently, not only is injury possible, but they’re often no longer able to do the daily activities that used to come easily.
“The important message to always give is that we want you to maintain your independence,” Caruso says.
If you begin to notice your parent or spouse is having some trouble standing up and walking around, here are some steps you can take to turn things around.
Talk it out
Deb Hallisey remembers the first time she noticed her mom’s decline in mobility.
“We were actually at a family gathering and she was walking out, and she fell. And she was so embarrassed,” says Hallisey, an author, eldercare advocate and founder of Advocate for Mom and Dad, an online resource for family caregivers.
Hallisey realized she had to change the way she broached difficult subjects with her mom, who is now 89.
“I call it the ‘drip method’ with my mother,” she says. “I bring it up multiple times, in multiple ways, in different situations where there’s an opening.
“And it’s always not a ‘you should, you must’ statement,” Hallisey says. “It’s a ‘I noticed this. I’m concerned. Would you like me to look into this for you?’ — keeping the control with her.”
Get it checked
Once you’ve started the conversation, making a medical appointment is the next crucial step, says David Reuben, chief of the Division of Geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Get an evaluation,” he says. “See where you’re starting from.”
A physician might do a strength, gait and balance evaluation or order a bone-density scan. The doctor will check things such as blood pressure and heart rate after standing, and underlying conditions. Hearing and vision should also be checked.
The physician may suggest ways to improve function; write a prescription for physical therapy, which Medicare often covers; or discuss surgery options or medicines that might help.
Do a pharmacy review. The doctor also can check your list of prescribed and over-the-counter medications to see if anything may have side effects of dizziness or sleepiness that could lead to falls.