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When you’re older, a fall can have a debilitating effect. Approximately 300,000 people in America fracture a hip each year—and as much as 30% die within a year. Of those that survive, many experience dramatic reductions in mobility and quality of life. A large majority of people who experience a hip fracture need assistance climbing stairs, getting off a toilet, standing up from chairs, or getting out of bed.
Hip fractures are so dangerous in part because as people age, their bones become more fragile. But that’s not the only reason. It’s also because older people often have other ailments as well—and a hip fracture can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In addition, it can take a while to rehabilitate from a hip fracture—and that much time spent immobilized in a hospital bed can lead to bedsores, infections, and other problems. Even worse, health insurance coverage for treatment often ends long before the work is done.
Here are a few things you can do—both immediately after the fall and during recovery—to raise your chances of not only surviving, but thriving after a hip fracture.
The road to recovery after a hip fracture can be long and difficult. But it’s important to keep up morale—and stay consistent in your efforts to regain the quality of life you had before the fall.
Get surgery ASAP
Don’t wait. According to the Canadian Medical Journal, your chances of dying from a hip fracture go down by 19% if the surgery is performed within three days of the accident.
Push for complete rehabilitation
Usually, patients with hip fractures get four to six days of recovery in a hospital after a surgery—followed by two to six weeks at a rehabilitation facility and another three to four of home rehabilitation. After that, care is usually over—but many patients need more help.
Your doctor may tell you that broken bones heal, and you just need to rest. But for older adults, this is often not enough. It’s not unusual for patients and their families not to insist on full recovery, but it may be necessary.
Of course, your health care plan may not cover continued rehabilitation—and for most people, coverage ends just when the real work begins. If that’s the case, you’ll have to work toward full recovery on your own. Bones heal faster with weight-bearing activity on a continued basis—start slowly, and increase the amount of weight you place on your hip over a gradual period of time.
Be sure to get plenty of calcium and Vitamin D in your diet—this will help you improve strength. In addition, eating protein will help you build muscle. Your diet will have a dramatic effect on whether you’re at risk for further falls.
Fall-proof your house
You can reduce the risk of a fall in the future by making some changes around the home. First, be scrupulous about clutter—it’s easy to trip on things left on the floor. Put carpeting down over slippery hardwood—this will not only reduce the risk of falling, but cushion your fall if you do slip. Avoid throw rugs, which can be a fall hazard themselves.
Be sure the light is bright in your house, and light switches are easy to reach at the entrance to each room—so you never have to cross a room in the dark to get to the light. Walk through your house and gauge whether furniture or sharp edges impede the path—you may have to rearrange the furniture to open the walking areas.
The road to recovery after a hip fracture can be long and difficult. But it’s important to keep up morale—and stay consistent in your efforts to regain the quality of life you had before the fall. Your doctor and others may tell you that partial recovery is enough—and that it’s okay to live with less mobility. The first step is refusing to accept that. It’s possible for many people to regain their old mobility after a hip fracture—with consistent effort, diet, and persistence.