Hip fractures are the most common type of fracture treated in the hospital. You may be at a higher risk if you are an elderly woman because of the potential for developing osteoporosis. Changes in bone mass increase the risk of fractures. Another reason is women, in general, have a longer life expectancy than men; physiologic changes of aging result in decreased joint flexibility and muscular strength.
Other factors that contribute to the occurence of a hip fracture in older women include a propensity to fall, inability to correct a postural imbalance, inadequacy of local tissue shock absorbers (for example, fat, muscle bulk), and underlying skeletal strength. Risk factors that have been identified include gait and balance problems, decreased vision and hearing, diminished reflexes, orthostatic hypotension, and medication use.
Falls to the side, the most common type of fall in the frail elderly, are more likely to result in a hip fracture than a forward fall. The signs and symptoms of hip fracture are severe pain at the fracture site, inability to move the leg voluntarily, and shortening or external rotation of the leg.
Calcium and vitamin D supplementation, estrogen replacement, and drug therapy have been shown to decrease bone loss or increase bone density and reduce the likelihood of fracture. Regular exercise is recommended to increase lower body strength and improve balance.
A safe environment implies freedom from injury with focus on preventing falls. Install and use sturdy banisters on both sides of staircases. Attach safety treads to steps. Tack down throw rugs or remove them entirely. Remove obstacles such as furniture and clutter in the path of traffic. Use self-adhesive non-skid mats or safety treads in bathtubs, showers, and pools. Use non-skid rugs on bathroom floors. Use non-skid pads under rugs on bare floors. Install grab bars in the tub and shower and near the toilet. Avoid bar soaps; use liquid soap from a dispenser mounted in the shower. Use assistive devices such as walkers and canes to aid balance.