This page has been reviewed by a medical professional.
Reviewed by Dr. Phil Mitchell, MD, MS
Once upon a time, we lived in a world where drinking a tall glass of milk every day was enough to keep bones strong. Since then, research has shown otherwise. Broken bones, are a common phenomena that affect millions of healthy individuals each year. For seniors, the risk for fracture is greater than most—often due to an underlying comorbidity, like osteoporosis, or age. If you’re the caregiver for an elderly loved one who has recently broken a bone, understanding the causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatments is critical to ensuring their comfort and a quick recovery.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to the common causes of geriatric fractures, the leading types of fractures suffered by seniors, and how to best care for a senior with a broken bone.
Causes of Geriatric Fractures
According to medical professionals, the top factors that put seniors at high risk of suffering a geriatric fracture include:
Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is the leading cause of geriatric fractures. This disease gradually affects the density and quality of bone over time, weakening the skeletal system and increasing the risk of fracture. This can make osteoporotic fractures particularly dangerous for seniors over the age of 50. Fortunately, there are ways you can take preventative measures against this silent disease, such as making healthy lifestyle changes and taking vitamins for bone health.
According to medical professionals, falls account for most injury-related emergency room (ER) visits for seniors. One of the most serious consequences: fractures. As we age, our vision weakens and the ability to balance becomes difficult. This can make seniors more prone to tumbles. When combined with decreased bone density, these minor trips and falls put the elderly at greater risk of fractures.
Vitamins and medications, if not taken as prescribed or mixed, can physically weaken the body. Seniors who take a variety of medications can experience negative symptoms such as dizziness, loss of appetite, and loss of bone density. While most of these can be recognized and addressed readily, the gradual weakening of bones can go unnoticed for years—increasing the risk of accidental fractures.
Common Fractures in Seniors
There are many different types of fractures, but those most commonly suffered by seniors include:
- Hip fractures. This serious fracture can significantly debilitate a person and almost always requires surgical repair or replacement. To speed this long recovery process, physical therapy and caregiver assistance are important.
- Femoral shaft fractures. Femurs (the long bone in the thigh) are one of the longest and strongest bones, making them difficult to break. For seniors, however, trips and tumbles on hard surfaces are enough to cause a femoral shaft fracture. Treatment often requires a surgical procedure, a full body cast, and 24 hour assistive care.
- Adult forearm fractures. Typically the result of falling on an outstretched arm, forearm fractures can weaken or numb the fingers or wrist—rendering the arm semi-useless until recovery.
- Wrist fractures. Broken wrists can either be “displaced breaks,” requiring setting before recovery, or stable, “non-displaced breaks.” In seniors, these fractures are often the result of falling onto an outstretched hand or a twisting injury.
Caring for a Broken Bone
Breaking a bone isn’t fun for anyone, as the injury is painful and the recovery is slow. If you’re the caregiver for a senior who has recently broken a bone, the recovery process can be even more challenging—especially if the dependent already suffers from a physical disability, Alzheimer’s disease, or similar complex medical condition. In caring for your elderly loved one’s broken bone, ensure you follow up with a medical professional, as the break could be linked to a larger skeletal issue such as osteoporosis—a condition that requires additional medical treatment. Some general suggestions that the doctor may advise for a healthy recovery after a break include:
- Keeping the home clutter-free to deter future stumbles
- Helping manage day-to-day activities to ensure the injured limb is rested
- Implementing simple, partnered exercises—such as walking around the block
- Offering assistance with baths and showers to ensure the cast stays dry
- Storing and collecting necessary items on a side table or near the bed to minimize movements
- Preparing meals that are rich in vitamin D and calcium to support bone health
How On-Demand Healthcare Can Help
Instead of trekking to the nearest emergency room (ER) for a broken bone, potentially further aggravating your loved one’s injury, turn to DispatchHealth. Equipped with nearly all of the tools found at facility-based emergency centers, our medical team will come straight to your home to ensure that your dependent is as comfortable as possible. What’s more, we’ve partnered with most major insurance companies—such as Medicare and Medicaid—making the medical cost for a DispatchHealth visit nearly one-tenth the cost of a typical ER visit. To ensure continuity of care, we also provide a detailed medical report to your living community, home health agency and/or primary care physician.
Requesting our on-demand services is as simple as contacting us via phone, mobile app, or on the website. Within a few hours, a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, as well as a DispatchHealth medical technician (DHMT), will arrive at your place of need to treat non-life-threatening conditions.
If this is an emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
Sources referenced in this article: