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Hip Fractures in the Elderly: Symptoms, Surgery & Recovery

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Hip Fractures in the Elderly: Symptoms, Surgery & Recovery
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Hip Fractures in the Elderly: Symptoms, Surgery and Recovery

October 22, 2018

A hip fracture is a serious injury for anyone, but for seniors it is especially dangerous. That’s because the break and the recuperation after surgery severely limits mobility. Inactivity can make a senior susceptible to life-threatening issues like pneumonia, other infections, bedsores and blood clots and can further weaken other bones.

Senior man in hospital with walker
Data show that those 65 or older sustain more than 90 percent of broken hips – a break that occurs in the upper third of the thigh bone and/or around the hip joint. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of a broken hip is key to reducing complications and functional decline.

Broken Hip Signs & Symptoms

A severe impact like a car crash can cause a broken hip in anyone. But for seniors, hip fractures can happen because of a fall, too much pressure on a weakened bone, or a hard bump against a wall or table. Senior women are more at risk for a broken hip because of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bone with age.

Signs and symptoms associated with a broken hip can vary depending on where the fracture is. Generally, there will be severe pain in the hip and groin area. Other symptoms include:

  • Inability to walk or put weight on a leg after a fall
  • Stiffness, bruising and swelling in the hip area
  • The leg on the side of the injured hip appears shorter
  • The leg on the side of the injured hip appears to be turned outward

If you or a loved one experience one or more of these symptoms after a fall or injury, fast medical attention is important. Doctors can confirm a hip fracture with an MRI or X-ray.

Surgery & Recovery Time

Broken hip treatment for seniors almost always includes surgery within 48 hours of the event that caused the fracture. The goal of surgery is to stabilize the fracture and encourage recovery in the shortest amount of time. After surgery, a typical hospital stay lasts about four to six days. 

At discharge from the hospital the senior will need to use a walker or crutches. They will begin a period of broken hip recovery time to help get back to the level of function they had before the fracture. This rehabilitation may take between four and 12 weeks and may happen in a skilled nursing facility, acute rehabilitation facility or at home with home health care and outpatient therapy.

The goal of post-hospital therapy is to help the senior heal safely, keep mobile and prevent loss of muscle tone. The ultimate goal is to help the senior walk as well as they were able to before the fracture. Once rehabilitation is complete, the senior must continue to take good care, including:
  • Exercising every day. Any type of weight-bearing activity will stimulate the bone to heal.
  • Eating well. Be sure to eat foods each day that contain protein to build muscle and calcium and vitamin D to increase bone strength.
  • Getting social. Stay involved with friends and family and fight the urge to stay inactive at home.

Outlook & Recovery Without Hip Surgery

While it is rare to not treat a hip fracture with surgery, that is the case for people who were not ambulatory when the injury occurred. Surgery may also not be the right treatment for those who are too weak for surgery, those who delayed care until the fracture started to heal, or those who have severe dementia. Hip fractures can heal without surgery, but this requires up to 12 weeks of immobilized bed confinement. This immobility can increase the risk of complications that can be debilitating or fatal.
If you are concerned about a loved one who will need some extra care after discharge from the hospital after a hip fracture, Elmcroft can help. Consider a short-term respite stay with us. Call the Elmcroft Senior Living community nearest you to learn more!

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