How to Prevent a Broken Hip for the Elderly

Tamera Jackson by Tamera Jackson | Licensed since 2007
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This article was updated on: 10/21/2018

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According to the Mayo Clinic, a broken hip, also called a hip fracture, can reduce your independence and sometimes even shorten your life. The first step in preventing a broken hip is understanding that you are at risk. Older women should in particular be on guard against a broken hip. The vast majority of broken hips, about 86%, occur in people age 65 and older, reports the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). About 70% of hip fractures occur in women, according to the Mayo Clinic. NCBI reports that about one in 3 women will sustain a broken hip in her lifetime, while 1 in 12 men will experience a broken hip in his lifetime. Women who sustained a broken hip have a five-fold increase in the likelihood of death within the first three months, according to NCBI data.

What causes a broken hip?

In elderly adults, a broken hip is most often caused by a fall from a standing height, according to the Mayo Clinic. That means that something as simple as getting up to the use the bathroom in the night and tripping could put an elderly adult at risk of a broken hip. According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors that older people face include:

  • Decreased bone density, which is particularly a problem for women since the estrogen level drop at menopause accelerates bone loss
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Problems with vision and balance which can lead to a fall

This means that an older person might fall more easily than a younger person and their falls may cause more harm.

How can I prevent a broken hip?

There are two main ways to prevent a broken hip: first to avoid falls and second to maintain healthy bones.

To avoid falls the Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • Exercise helps increase overall strength, which makes you less likely to fall and cause a broken hip. Balance training with exercise can also help reduce your risk of falls. Some Medicare Advantage plans may cover wellness programs.
  • Remove tripping hazards from your home. Look out for rugs, electrical cords and excess furniture that could trip you and cause a broken hip.
  • Light your house well. If you can see well you might be less likely to fall.
  • Check your eyes every other year. There is generally no coverage for routine eye exams under Medicare Part A and Part B, but Medicare Advantage plans may have vision coverage.
  • Watch medication side-effects. Some medications can make you dizzy, which can increase your risk of falling and causing a broken hip. Talk to your doctor about these side-effects.
  • Stand up slowly. If you get up fast your blood pressure may drop and alter your sense of balance.
  • Use a stick or walker. Medicare may cover a stick or walker as durable medical equipment.

To promote bone health the Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D to avoid a broken hip. Ask your doctor to recommend exactly how much calcium and vitamin D you should take, but generally the recommended amount is 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day and 600 international units of vitamin D a day. Since calcium and vitamin D are available over-the-counter they are generally not covered by Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs.
  • Weight-bearing exercises such as walking help you maintain peak bone density which could prevent a broken hip.
  • Avoid smoking and excessive drinking. Tobacco and alcohol can reduce bone density. Medicare will cover up to eight face-to-face smoking cessation counseling visits in a 12-month period, if the visits are provided by a qualified physician or other practitioner who accepts Medicare assignment.

What else can I do to prevent a broken hip?

If your doctor thinks you are at risk for broken bones or a broken hip, she may order a bone density test. Usually women who are estrogen deficient and at risk for osteoporosis qualify for this test under Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B generally covers the bone density/bone mass measurement test once every 24 months if it’s ordered by a qualified provider. If your provider accepts assignment, you generally pay nothing for this test.

If you would like more information about Medicare coverage for services to help prevent a broken hip, I am available to answer your questions. Want to learn about other coverage options you may have, including Medicare Advantage plans? Medicare Advantage plans are another way to get your Original Medicare benefits (except for hospice care, which Part A still provides) – and often include coverage for additional benefits like routine vision or dental, wellness programs, and more.

To request a phone call or email with information prepared just for you, click the corresponding link below. You can also view a list of plan options in your area by clicking the Compare Plans button.

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