Hip fractures in older adults are common. In fact, more than 300,000 adults 65 or older are hospitalized for hip fractures each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women are at higher risk, making up 80% of broken hips in elderly adults overall, and other risk factors include inactivity, osteoporosis, and unsafe home environments. Learn how to recognize the symptoms of a broken hip, facts about complications, and how to help keep your loved one safe.
Hip fracture complications in elderly adults can be life-threatening, even after surgery. Mortality risks are especially high for people who:
Fractured hip complications can seriously affect mobility in seniors. When elderly adults aren’t mobile for an extended period of time, they can develop serious conditions such as:
The risk of falls increases with age, and 95% of hip fractures are the result of a fall, according to the CDC.
Risk factors for hip fractures in elderly adults include:
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You can help your aging loved one prevent hip fractures by making sure their home is safe and free of trip hazards.
You may also talk to your loved one about:
Staying as physically active as possible with exercises that help with balance and leg strength, such as walking regularly, gentle yoga, or tai chi
Sometimes a hip fracture isn’t immediately obvious, especially in older adults with already-reduced mobility or preexisting chronic pain. However, because hip fractures can lead to potentially life-threatening complications, it’s important to know which signs to look out for.
Symptoms of a fractured hip include:
Some of these signs of a broken hip are more immediately evident than others. Even if your loved one is able to walk, be sure to check for bruising and swelling after any falls. If your relative is experiencing significant pain or difficulty putting weight on one leg, make an urgent appointment with their doctor or visit the emergency room.
Note that some of these symptoms could lead to a diagnosis other than a broken hip.
“Torn hamstrings and fractures of the pelvis are often detected upon examination that may have originally presented as or [were assumed to be] a hip fracture,” says Dr. Lawrence Samuels, a radiologist based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
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Often, a hip fracture can be diagnosed through a physical examination. However, your loved one’s doctor may request imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans to confirm the diagnosis or learn more about the fracture.
Here’s what you can expect for each type of test:
If your aging parent has a hip fracture, they’ll most likely need surgery, a hospital stay, and rehabilitation to help heal a broken hip. The type of surgery your loved one will have depends on their overall health condition and age, the type of fracture, and its severity.
Here’s some more information about types of hip fractures:
Depending on the type of fracture, methods of hip surgery in elderly adults include:
A hip fracture usually can’t heal on its own. In rare instances, doctors may recommend hip fracture treatment without surgery. Your loved one might not need surgery if the bone is fractured but remains in place.
Also, surgery might not be recommended for seniors whose quality of life would be negatively affected by an operation. For example, patients who are too sick to endure it, who were unable to walk before the fracture occurred, or who are terminally ill may not benefit from hip surgery. In these cases, treatment consists of pain management, physical therapy, and different techniques to avoid straining and putting weight on the affected hip.
Recovery after hip surgery is a lengthy process — it’ll take some time to return to everyday activities. Your loved one will likely stay in the hospital for a few days after surgery. Physical and occupational therapy for broken hip recovery may start while your parent is still at the hospital.
Physical therapists can develop a program for your loved one to help them strengthen muscles and improve balance and mobility. Occupational therapists focus on activities of daily living that allow your parent to live as independently as possible. They may also need home care after hip replacement surgery. For more intensive rehabilitation, seniors may need a short-term stay in a skilled nursing facility or rehab center.
If your loved one’s hip fracture has left them unable to live on their own, or if they need additional assistance to prevent future falls, it may be time to consider assisted living or another type of senior living community. Reach out to one of A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors if you’re interested in one of these options. They can help guide you through the senior living search, answer questions about nearby communities, and schedule tours, all at no cost to you.
Mayo Clinic. (2022, May 5). Hip fracture.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, September 20). Hip fractures among older adults.
Stanford Medicine. Risk factors for hip fracture.
Cedars Sinai. (2022).Hip fracture.
Fox, K.M., Magaziner, J., Hebel, J.R., Kenzora, J.E., & Kashner, T.M. (1999, December). Intertrochanteric versus femoral neck hip fractures: differential characteristics, treatment, and sequelae. The Journals of Gerontology.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2020, November). Hip fractures.
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