The statistics around hip fractures show how detrimental they can be, and the financial cost they bring to the NHS. 90% of hip fractures are caused by falls, and they are a leading factor in the loss of mobility and independence in elderly people.
Hip fractures are very prevalent in the elderly and can be a common hazard for them. Suffering a hip fracture results in hospital admission, which can be a backward step for the elderly and frail. Not least because of the strain on our NHS, but periods of immobility following surgery or hip replacement can result in infections, muscle weakening and general deconditioning. Therefore it is critical for the elderly and frail who are more vulnerable to sustaining hip injuries to be vigilant in avoiding them.
In this article we look at the risks of hip fractures, how those at risk and their families can prevent them from occurring, and the merits of different hip protection products available.
Firstly, we look the causes of hip fractures and how they put people at risk.
As people age this is often accompanied by a decline in physical activity, resulting in reduced muscle strength, flexibility, balance and decreased bone mass. All these things can increase the likelihood of falls and hip fractures. With the UK’s ageing population, the proportion of over 65s has increased from 16.4% in 2011 to 18.6% in 2021. With a larger section of the population at greater risk of hip fractures, this places an increased burden on the NHS and highlights the need to address this issue.
This is a condition that reduces bones mass and weakens the bone, making sufferers more susceptible to breaks and fractures if they fall. Osteoporosis is most common in women, and affects the over 50s the most. With the ageing population increasing the size of this demographic, osteoporosis is a larger factor in the causes of hip fractures.
Some medications used in care can increase dizziness and drowsiness, like sedatives, anti-depressants and cardiovascular drugs. These can reduce patient’s balance, causing them to fall over.
Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s affect balance and coordination, making patients unsteady on their feet and more prone to falls. Read more about patient seating for these conditions here.
There are lots of changes someone can make in their physical environment to reduce the risk of falling. There are also more direct hip protection products to cushion a fall and reduce the impact on the hips, if someone does suffer a fall. Some of these prevention methods are more holistic in nature, but more direct strategies like the HipGuard provide the most effective protection, giving the user peace of mind.
Staying fit and healthy and exercising regularly is the best way to stave off ill health. This is a first-cause prevention technique that stops joint stiffness from setting in, and keeps the immune system strong and healthy, which prevent illnesses setting in that make someone more prone to falling.
Removing trip hazards around someone’s home or care home and creating a safe environment is key. It is particularly important for dementia care homes to have a clear, uncluttered room layout, so that patients do not feel disorientated.
Hip protectors are foam pads worn on both sides of the hip, sometimes with a plastic shield, that provide cushioning on the hip in the event of a fall. When someone falls sideways, the hip is the widest bony protrusion, so will take the full impact of the fall. Hip protectors can be worn inside underwear or with special briefs that have an insert pouch.
The HipGuard is the first falls protection device of its kind, using a wearable belt that clips around the body above the hips. The built in algorithm detects the user’s motions and deploys an airbag if someone loses their balance and falls towards the floor.
The airbag provides much better protection than a foam hip protector, inflating in a horseshoe shape around the femoral area of the hip, and cushioning the patient’s fall.
This protects the femoral neck area by spreading the force of the impact around the bone rather than directly onto it. The belt is also discreet and lightweight, available in different sizes.
It has been certified by the independent testing body Critt to reduce impact force by 90% and reduce shock 9-fold when compared to standard hip protectors.
The technology was tested and verified by Grenoble University in France, one of the biggest scientific research centres in Europe.
Watch the video at 53 minutes in to see the HipGuard in action:
Practically reducing the risk of falls by removing trip hazards and helping someone keep active is a great start to reducing the risk of hip fractures.
If someone you know is particularly at risk, or has underlying health conditions that would make the effects of a fall more serious, such as osteoporosis, a hip protection solution like the HipGuard is the best way to keep the patient safe and out of hospital.