A hip fracture, generally caused by a fall, is one of the
most serious injuries elderly people face. Nursing home residents
have a particularly high risk for these fractures, which often
lead to extreme immobility and even death, despite corrective
surgery for most sufferers. Wearing external hip protectors
can reduce the impact
of a fall, significantly lowering the odds for a hip fracture
- but regular use of hip protectors is low.
To evaluate hip-protector usage following an educational
intervention, almost 1,000 nursing home residents 70 or more
years old and at a high risk for falling participated in a
recent study published in the British Medical Journal.
Staff at selected nursing homes in Hamburg, Germany, were
educated about hip protector use in a single class, then instructed
the residents and supplied them with hip protectors. Elderly
patients provided with standard care were examined for comparison.
Over 18 months, the risk for hip fracture was reduced by
43% in seniors given free hip protectors and education about
their usage, compared to their peers. Of those seniors who
suffered a fall, hip protectors were used by 15% of people
receiving standard care, versus 68% in the group given hip
protectors and education.
This study may be cause for celebration. Some consider external
hip protectors cumbersome and unsightly, but if you're a likely
candidate for a hip fracture, they provide a safe, easy means
of avoiding what can be a severe injury. Seniors who should
consider wearing hip protectors are those with any of the
following criteria: female gender; slight build; osteoporosis;
poor balance or coordination; vision problems; general disorientation;
or medication use that leads to dizziness or a weakened condition.
Meyer G, Warnke A, et al. Effect on hip fractures of increased
use of hip protectors in nursing homes: Cluster randomized
controlled trial. British Medical Journal 2003:326,
For more information about senior health issues, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/senior.