Dangerous Falls: Hip Fractures in the Elderly Population

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.

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