Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Wrist FAQ

Question:

Dad has Alzheimer's but still lives at home with Mother. Two months ago he got out of a cast for a broken wrist. He fell down without any warning and landed on his left hand. He has exercises to do in order to get his wrist motion and hand strength back. But with the dementia, he never does these unless we do them with him. How important is it that we go over there three to four times a week to supervise the rehab program?

Answer:

Falls from a standing position that are not caused by tripping over something or being pushed are referred to as low energy trauma. It sounds like this is the type of injury that caused your father's fracture. Older adults are the group at greatest risk for this type of fall and associated injuries. Osteoporosis (brittle bones or decreased bone density) increase the risk of fractures from low energy trauma. Physical therapy and rehab isn't routinely required after wrist fractures. But anyone with loss of motion, stiffness, and persistent pain can benefit from some exercises to help restore normal activity. Without full wrist motion and grip strength, every day activities can become a real problem. Even lifting a plate of food or coffee pot can end in disaster. It's important to prevent further accidents and alleviate any suffering. It might be a good idea to see that the exercise program is done several times each week. If you are unable to do this yourself, there are home health agencies who send in a therapist to work with your father. Zoltan Földhazy and Leif Ahrengart. External Fixation Versus Closed Treatment of Displaced Distal Radial Fractures in Elderly Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. May/June 2010. Vol. 21. No. 3. Pp. 288-295.

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