The risks of osteoporosis and how to prevent seniors falling are closely related. This is because osteoporosis greatly increases the propensity for falls and the potential for injuries.
Because it is a condition that presents as the gradual weakening of bones which makes them more brittle, therefore the possibility of serious fractures is more common.
When seniors with osteoporosis have a fall, the impact on their weakened bones can lead to serious fractures, which can severely affect their health and quality of life.
This article discusses the risks of osteoporosis, bone healing, and provides fall prevention tips for seniors.
Table of Contents
Address this Major Risk of Osteoporosis to Prevent Seniors Falling
The major risk of osteoporosis is having a fracture from a fall. As we all know, when a senior breaks a bone, it can take an extremely long time for it to heal. The question is why?
Why Does it Take Longer for a Broken Bone to Heal in Seniors?
The healing process for a broken bone, or fracture, can surprisingly take longer in seniors compared to younger individuals. There are several reasons for this.
Slower healing can be caused by a combination of factors related to aging and changes in the physiology of the body resulting in different complications.
Because of this, seniors are generally at a higher risk of other complications apart from prolonged healing. These are the failure of bone ends to heal, or an improper alignment of the healed bone.
Decreased Bone Density
With age, bone density tends to decrease (osteoporosis) and bones become more brittle and prone to fractures.
The reduced bone density can slow down the healing process, because there is less healthy bone tissue available to support the healing process.
It is better to prevent seniors falling than trying to get a fracture to heal! Reduced weightbearing of the leg bones often tends to slow down walking in seniors and the elderly because of the fear of falling. The use of knee supports or back braces help increase confidence.
Seniors generally have a lowered metabolic rate compared to younger individuals. Metabolism plays an important role in bone repair and other healing processes. Slow metabolism can lead to tissue regeneration and repair occurring slower.
Limited Mobility and Activity
The more serious falls in the home generally occur in the bathroom and kitchen, although a fall can result in fractures or be deadly anywhere . Unfortunately, fractures often result in reduced mobility in seniors and this can slow down the healing process, as physical activity and weight-bearing are required for the rapid bone remodeling and tissue regeneration.
Adequate nutrition is necessary for supporting the body’s healing mechanisms and seniors generally may have altered dietary habits or difficulty in nutrient absorption. This can which can affect their overall nutrition.
Reduced Blood Flow
Blood circulation also tends to decrease with age. Adequate blood flow is necessary for delivering oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells to the site of injury for proper healing, while a reduced blood flow can obstruct the healing process.
Hormones play a significant role in bone health and the healing process and their levels can change with age. These changes can impact bone remodeling and regeneration.
Weakened Immune Response
Similarly, the efficiency of the immune system can decline with age. Immune cells help manage inflammation and promote tissue repair. If the immune response is affected in any way, the healing process can also be delayed or become less effective.
Pre-existing Health Conditions
Certain preexisting health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and autoimmune diseases which occur in seniors can negatively affect the ability of the body to heal effectively.
Associated Risk Factors Linked to Fractures
Location of Fractures
Osteoporosis-related fractures commonly occur in the hip, spine, and wrist. These fractures are more likely to happen during falls due to the reduced bone density and strength associated with osteoporosis.
Hip fractures, especially, can be really debilitating and can lead to long-term immobility and a decline in overall health.
Pain and Discomfort: Fractures resulting from falls can cause significant pain and discomfort. Seniors may have to endure a prolonged period of pain, which can limit their mobility and affect their overall quality of life.
Reduced Mobility and Loss of Independence
A fall-related fracture can lead to reduced mobility, making it harder for seniors to stay active and engage in regular physical activities. Reduced mobility can further contribute to muscle weakness and balance issues, increasing the risk of future falls.
Seniors who experience fractures due to falls are often at risk of losing their independence. Recovery from fractures can be lengthy and challenging, requiring rehabilitation and assistance with daily activities. This loss of independence can have emotional and psychological impacts on seniors.
After experiencing a fall, seniors may develop a fear of falling again. This fear can of course lead to an intentional decrease in physical activity and mobility resulting in social isolation negative effects on overall health.
Secondary Health Complications
Falls in seniors can lead to a diverse range of secondary health complications, such as pneumonia, blood clots, pressure sores, and muscle atrophy which may further increase the risk of mortality.
The healthcare costs associated with treating fall-related injuries in seniors, including hospitalization, surgeries, and rehabilitation, can place a significant economic burden on individuals, families, and healthcare systems.
How to Prevent Seniors Falling?
To mitigate the risks associated with osteoporosis and falls in seniors, proactive measures should be taken:
Fall Prevention Tips for Seniors
Regular Check-ups – Seniors should have regular check-ups with their healthcare providers to monitor their bone health and overall well-being. This is the only way to quickly detect osteoporosis and begin treatment
Regular Vision and Hearing Checks – Specifically, poor vision and hearing can contribute to falls. Seniors should have their vision and hearing checked regularly and wear appropriate corrective devices if required.
Review Medication – Certain medications can increase the risk of falls. Seniors should review their medications with their healthcare providers to ensure they are not taking drugs that could contribute to balance issues.
Bone Health Management – Working with healthcare providers, seniors manage their osteoporosis through proper nutrition, vitamin D and calcium supplementation, and possibly medications to improve bone density.
Exercise – Regular physical activity that including weight-bearing exercises and balance training can help improve muscle strength and balance to reduce the risk of falls.
Home Safety – Modifying the living environment to reduce fall hazards, such as removing clutter, installing handrails, and using non-slip mats, can help prevent falls.
Conclusion- Prevent Seniors Falling
Taking measures to address the risks and effects of osteoporosis can help to prevent seniors falling. These can help to significantly reduce the risk of falls and related injuries.
- How to Prevent Falls in Seniors – Home Safety
- How to Maintain Independence – Prevent Causes of Falls in Seniors
- Senior Safety in the Bedroom – What are the Risks?
- Why is Senior Safety in the Bathroom Important? – Facts
- Senior Safety in the Kitchen – 11 Point Checklist
NHS. (2022, January 18). Food for healthy bones. Nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/bone-health/food-for-strong-bones/