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    Fate Worse Than Death? A Broken Hip


    In an editorial accompanying the study, Shanthi N. Ameratunga, MBChB, MPH, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, writes that while the findings are disturbing, it is not unique for older people to prefer death to disability from a chronic condition. According to Ameratunga, the study indicates that prevention and management of falls and hip fractures in elderly people should be a priority.

    Salkeld and colleagues write that a number of techniques designed to intervene before an older person fractures a hip are effective and should be implemented in frail older women. Lappe agrees.

    "Everyone -- men and women, children and adults -- should be getting adequate calcium and vitamin D and weight-bearing activity throughout their lifetime," Lappe tells WebMD. "Even people in nursing homes should be doing exercise because it does two things: It may help maintain bone mass, and it helps with muscle strength and coordination so you are less apt to fall." Adequate protein in the diet is also important, since studies have documented low protein intake among those with falls. Home health nurses also can assist elderly people who are still living in their own homes by checking their home for trouble spots -- such as furniture or other items that block or interfere with safely walking through a room -- and even suggesting brighter colors for furniture or draperies to help those with dim eyesight see their surroundings more clearly.

    Vital Information:

    • In a recent study, women in their 70s and 80s reported that they would rather be dead than in a nursing home as a result of a broken hip.
    • Hip fractures are an adverse outcome of osteoporosis, and prevention of this disease should be a top priority.
    • To prevent osteoporosis, people should consume adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, and perform weight-bearing exercises.
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