One of the major factors that lead to disability and loss of independence among the elderly is falling and fracturing one or both hips. Research suggests that recovery at home can reduce the extent of disability.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 percent of the hip fractures in the elderly result from falling and the risk of this injury increases with age as people older than 85 years old are 10 to 15 times more to break their hip in a fall than a person who is 20 years younger. Unlike younger people, hip fractures in the elderly can be deadly due to complications such as blood clots developing and traveling to the heart or lungs, lung infections and pneumonia, or experiencing another fall. Fortunately, doctors have found that with immediate medical intervention, such as surgery, and with aggressive physical and occupational therapy, many older adults can regain most, if not all, of their mobility. In fact, research has shown that when older adults receive intensive inpatient rehabilitation, as opposed to placement in skilled nursing facility, greatly increases the older adult’s chances of maintaining his or her independence.
Even with the best inpatient rehabilitation treatment, older adults who have broken their hip need support when they return home. They often have difficulty with moving and they have a high risk of falling again. While the person will often have in-home physical therapy and occupational therapy appointments and visits from nurses and social workers, he or she will also need assistance from family members during their first few months at home. Additionally, many older adults recovering from a hip fracture find the services of a home health personal care assistant to be invaluable.
Caring for a Loved One after a Hip Fracture
The two main challenges a caregiver faces when they are tending to the needs of a family member who is recovering from a hip fracture are ensuring they have enough exercise and that the older person is receiving enough nutrition in their diet. Once you have discussed discharge plans with your loved one’s treatment team, you need to prepare yourself and the home for their return.
- Place frequently used items at waist height or higher so your family member does not have to bend over to reach the object
- Arrange furniture to provide wide walkways to accommodate a walker or crutches.
- Remove area rugs, mats, or other objects on the floor that can cause your relative to trip.
- Set up a sitting area with a chair that has arms and a high, firm cushioned seat but still allows his or her feet to rest on the floor.
- Install grab bars and an elevated toilet seat in the bathroom.
- If the person has an upstairs bedroom, you need to repurpose an area on the first floor of the home to act as a temporary sleeping area so your family member does not have to navigate stairs. Make sure the bed has a firm mattress and is low enough so the person can place their feet on the floor when they sit on the bed.
Once your loved one has returned home, you’ll need to show them the changes you have made in the home. Since your family member likely has to take several different types of medications, many people find it helpful to writea schedule and then check off when the person takes the medication to prevent missed doses or taking two doses in a short time frame. Additionally, it is very important for the person to take pain medication as directed because if their pain flares up, the person is going to have difficulty doing their exercises and moving around their home.
One of the dangers people face after a hip fracture is the formation of blood clots. While your loved one might be prescribed anti-coagulants to prevent clots from forming, the most effective means of preventing blood clots is regular exercise. If possible, the person should not sit for more than 45 minutes at a time; otherwise, your family member’s physical therapist will prescribe exercises to help maintain healthy blood circulation.
Many times people who have fractured their hip in a fall develop a fear of falling and are reluctant to walk on their own. As a caregiver, you need to be empathetic with their fears, while at the same time encouraging your family member to walk. Additionally, some medications cause a reduction in appetite so you will need to coax your loved one to eat. When recovering from a hip fracture, it is important for the person to eat foods that are rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin D. The protein helps the individual maintain and build muscle strength and the vitamin D and calcium are essential for the growth of new bone tissue.
Another challenge people face when they are recovering from a hip fracture is bathing. If possible, install grab rails in the shower and obtain a skid proof bench for the shower. Since showers are very slippery, your loved one will likely need assistance when they are bathing.
Arranging for Support for Your Loved One and Yourself
Caring for your loved one when he or she returns home can take its toll on you, especially if you are also working and taking care of your children. Many families find that the services of a personal care assistant are invaluable. They assist people who are recovering from a hip fracturing with moving around their home, attending to their personal hygiene, taking care of housekeeping and meal preparation, and transportation to appointments. To learn more about how a personal care assistant can help you and your loved one after a hip fracture, contact a Minnesota home health care agency today.