Getting Seniors Back on Their Feet
Accidents happen. Unfortunately, as we age, even minor accidents can have major consequences. Fragile bones caused by osteoporosis, combined with other medical conditions that place seniors at a higher risk of falls, make hip fractures both common and potentially life-threatening.
Each year, 1.5 million people in the United States suffer fractures because their bones have become weak. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, West Virginia has the second-oldest population of any state, resulting in an increased risk for falls and fractures,
The Senior Fracture Program at Cabell Huntington Hospital, led by medical director Frank Shuler, MD, PhD, and program coordinator Rebecca Edwards, RN, BSN, CNRN, works to ensure the best possible outcomes for hip fracture patients, using a unique approach that is equally based on leading-edge research and personal compassion. The program’s coordinated care approach is the only one in the region.
“Falls and fractures in the elderly are serious, potentially life-threatening events, and our Senior Fracture Program is designed to achieve the best possible outcomes for bone fractures in elderly patients,” said Dr. Shuler. “The Senior Fracture Program provides a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach that emphasizes quality management, timely operative treatment and standardization of protocols to improve our delivery of services and outcomes for hip fracture patients.”
Hip fracture patients are assessed in the Emergency Department immediately, and taken to surgery within 24 hours. Research has shown that treating senior patients within 24 hours of a hip fracture results in a shorter length of stay, a faster recovery, fewer complications and an increased likelihood to return to pre-injury levels
“When hip fracture patients come to us, it is a difficult time,” Dr. Shuler said. “It’s scary. I have seen in my own family the devastating consequences these injuries can have. My grandfather passed away from complications following hip fracture surgery. With this program, we want to put things in place that will provide the best possible care for our patients and their families.”
Following surgery to repair the fracture, patients receive care from a multidisciplinary team of orthopedic surgeons, physicians, endocrinologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals with expertise in the care of seniors. These specialists work together to assess patients’ bone health, establish a plan for pain management and rehabilitation based on each patient’s individual needs, and educate patients and their families on ways to prevent future fractures.
Patients begin the rehabilitation process soon after surgery, reducing the risk of infections, blood clots and other complications.
What sets the Senior Fracture Program at Cabell Huntington Hospital apart is the dedication of its staff to patients and their families as soon as they arrive at the hospital – and even beyond the hospital walls.
As a liaison for patients and their families, Edwards not only cares for patients during their hospital stay, making daily visits to assess their progress and answer questions, but also follows up with patients and families after they return home.
“When patients are in the hospital, there’s just so much for them to take in,” Edwards said. “They’re anxious about the surgery, and information is coming in from so many areas. The follow-up is very important. It helps us reinforce what they’ve learned and find out what their learning needs are outside the stress of the hospital setting.”
Cabell Huntington Hospital’s ongoing commitment to seniors through its Senior Services department also includes community outreach. Edwards visits local assisted-living facilities to educate seniors on bone health, osteoporosis and fall prevention.
“A lot of people aren’t aware they have a bone health problem until they suffer their first fracture,” she said. “As we increase community awareness and give people ways to prevent osteoporosis, we hope to ultimately prevent fractures from occurring.”
To learn more about the Senior Fracture Program, call 304.399.1897.
To help keep your bones strong and slow down bone loss, you can:
• Get adequate calcium, Vitamin D and nutrients to support bone and muscle health.
• Exercise regularly to help maintain muscle strength and balance (check with your doctor first).
• Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake.
• Talk to your doctor about evaluating your bone density and how you can improve it.
Learn more about bone health and avoiding falls on the Cabell Huntington Hospital website
(www.cabellhuntington.org) by clicking the white CHH logo in the top right corner of any page.