Broken Bones - a Real Risk for Seniors

For seniors who face a variety of health issues as they age, bone fractures pose a serious problem; and the most common way by far to break a bone is to fall. It is estimated that one out of every three seniors (over 65) in the U.S. falls every year, and that falls account for over 85% of all fractures in people who are aged 65 years or older.

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The most common bones to fracture in older people are the hip, the thigh bone (femur), the pelvis and the spine (vertebrae), followed by the upper arm bone (humerus), forearm, hand, leg, and ankle bones. And of these, hip fractures are the most prevalent and the most dangerous to overall health. But any broken bone suffered by a senior poses problems that must be addressed and, where possible, corrected. Put more simply, bone breakage in later life is a serious health risk.

One reason that bones to break more easily as we age is that so many people develop brittle bones; those bones lose calcium and mineral content, and the result is thinner, more easily broken bones. This loss of bone mass or bone density can be caused by different things including osteoporosis, the use of long-term corticosteroids medications or a deficiency in Vitamin D.

Healing from a broken bone can take longer when you're older. It's estimated that between five and ten percent of broken bones in seniors will heal slowly or incompletely. In the most extreme cases, the two sides of the fractured bone may never join or and knit together, leaving many seniors confined to wheelchairs.

A broken bone may require surgery, and surgery, sedation and extended hospitalization are all risky for seniors. Many normal aging developments like eyesight changes and diminishing coordination increase the risk of falling for older people. Arthritis, medications, balance problems from nervous disorders like Parkinson's and visual impairment like cataracts all contribute to the danger of injury from falling and breaking a bone.

There are some simple steps that can help prevent falls that break bones and cause other kinds of injury to seniors. The senior should be encouraged to do strengthening exercises and make sure they are taking no more than the prescribed amount of medications, especially those for sleep. Eyes and muscle and bone strength should be evaluated, Keeping the house well lite and installing safety bars are great safety measures. And make sure the floor is kept free of objects that could be stumbled over.

The best advice about seniors and broken bones is to try to prevent them from happening in the first place.

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