For most, a fracture entails a trip to the emergency room and a few weeks
of discomfort. A cast may be involved that serves as a badge of honor
among young people. However, for elderly people, hip fractures are a silent
epidemic that some studies have shown result in mortality rates of up
to 36 percent one year after the fracture occurs. The 30-day mortality
rate after hip fracture is around 9 percent and rises to 17 percent should
the patient already suffer from an acute medical condition. Complications
from hip fractures can also result in heart attack or pneumonia.
Due to medical advances, the number of older adults continues to grow.
This means that the number of hip fractures is also likely to increase
in the coming years. According to the latest statistics from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010 alone, there were 258,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures
among people aged 65 and older, and more than 95 percent of these fractures
were caused by falls. Moreover, falls themselves rarely are fatal. Rather,
the majority of fatalities are due to complications following the hip
fracture. For example, infections from surgeries may weaken an already
compromised immune system.
Falls in Nursing Homes Are Especially Deadly
According to a
2009 study in the Journal of Gerontology, the survival of nursing home residents
following hip fractures is an area of particular concern. Because nursing
home populations are naturally skewed towards older Americans who require
some physical assistance, many of the study’s participants had moderate
to severe cognitive impairments. These residents were more likely to die
following hip fractures than residents with high functioning ability.
Further, the risk for death in nursing home residents with hip fractures
increased by 30 percent for every five years of advancing age.
Causes for the study’s disturbing results are numerous, ranging from
failure to administer appropriate treatment after a resident suffers a
fall to understaffing and miscommunications. Thus, it is essential that
nursing homes have protocols in place that are carefully tailored to the
cognitive abilities of each resident before accidents and falls occur.
Preventing Hip Fractures
For families who worry that a loved one who has been placed in a nursing
home is in danger of falls, it is important to speak with staff members
at the facility to learn about the care plans for hip fractures. Additionally,
when choosing nursing homes, families should ask whether the residents
are able to exercise regularly, as balance and leg strength reduces the
chances of falling. It is also important to tour nursing homes to assess
whether there are handles placed in bathrooms near showers and toilets
and if there are tripping hazards in the hallways. Lastly, nursing home
residents should undergo annual eye exams and regular consultations with
his or her primary care physician to review medications that may have
side effects that can affect balance, such as dizziness or drowsiness.
At The Pittman Firm, we are dedicated to protecting nursing home residents
and ensuring appropriate compensation for injuries suffered during nursing
home care. If you believe that your loved one has suffered a hip fracture
at a nursing facility as a result of negligence, contact us today for
a free consultation.