Question:Dad is in the hospital with a hip fracture. This is a first for our family. What can we do to help him maintain his independent lifestyle once he's home?
Answer:Many older adults who survive a hip fracture are left with problems they didn't have before the fracture. For example, they may have to use a walker or cane to get around. Walking and managing stairs can be major disabilities now. Dressing and undressing can be difficult. And some patients are unable to get back to their regular community or social activities. Recovery can take up to two years.
Most patients receive physical therapy while in the hospital. But PT after discharge isn't always ordered or provided. Yet studies show that patients with this injury who have PT after going home are less likely to be rehospitalized. They are also less likely to die from complications of this condition.
The therapist will help the patient regain motion, balance, and strength needed to resume normal activities of daily living. These skills are also needed to get back to regular social activities. Breathing exercises and aerobic conditioning may help prevent problems such as pneumonia that can cause rehospitalization and even death.
Most states in the U.S. now have consumer access or direct access to PTs. This means you can contact the therapist directly without requiring a physician's referral. The therapist's evaluation will include screening for conditions that require medical attention.
After a few weeks of PT, many patients can be set up on a supervised home program they can follow on their own. The therapist will also help identify safety concerns in the home environment. Anything you can do to make sure safety feature are installed (e.g., lighting, tub bars) will go a long way to prevent future falls and subsequent fractures.Kathleen Kline Mangione, et al. Intervention Used By Physical Therapists in Home Care for People After Hip Fracture. In Physical Therapy. February 2008. Vol. 88. No. 2. Pp. 199-210.
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