Hip fractures in the elderly 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). Older women are at higher risk, making up 80% of broken hip injuries overall.
Complications of a broken hip in the elderly can be life-threatening. The risk of death one year after a hip fracture can range from 12% to 37% in older adults. The risk is especially high for people with another health condition or a cognitive impairment, people not treated with surgery, and people who can’t walk independently.
A broken hip severely affects mobility in seniors. When elderly adults aren’t mobile for an extended period of time, they can develop serious conditions such as:
A broken hip in the elderly can also increase their risk of falls.
The risk of falls increases with age, and 95% of hip fractures result from a fall, according to the CDC.
“They fall because they lose their coordination,” says Dr. Charles Peterson, an orthopedic surgeon at the Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle. “They have difficulty with their eyesight and balance, and they become weak. When they fall, they tend to have a higher frequency of fractures because of osteoporosis and weaker bones.”
Other risk factors for hip fractures include:
You can help your aging parent prevent hip fractures by making sure their home is safe and fall-proofed.
You may also talk to your loved one about:
If your aging parent has a hip fracture, they will most likely need surgery, a hospital stay, and rehab after surgery.
There are two main types of hip fractures:
The type of surgery your loved one will have depends on their overall health condition, the type of fracture, and its severity.
In rare instances, doctors may not recommend surgery in people with hip fractures. Your loved one might not need surgery if the bone is fractured but remains in place. Surgery might not be recommended for patients who are too sick to endure it, were unable to walk before the fracture occurred, or are terminally ill.
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 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 enable your parent to live as independently as possible.
Talk to the doctor to determine where to complete rehab after your parent is discharged from the hospital. You may have options — from skilled nursing facilities to outpatient rehab at home or at an assisted living community.
Foster, K.W. “Overview of common hip fractures in adults.” https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-common-hip-fractures-in-adults.
Morrison R.S. “Hip fractures in adults: epidemiology and medical management.” https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hip-fracture-in-adults-epidemiology-and-medical-management.
LeBlanc K.E., Muncie H.L., LeBlanc L.L. “Hip fracture: diagnosis, treatment, and secondary prevention.” American Family Physicians; 2014: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0615/p945.html.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip fractures. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/hip-fractures
Angelike Gaunt is a content strategist at A Place for Mom. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.