Osteoporosis is a disease that causes thin and brittle bones in seniors. The disease causes the bones to fracture more easily than usual. Osteoporosis is more common in older people, but it can occur at any age. Allcare Home Health has put together some valuable information about the condition to help family members and caregivers to recognize when it’s time to consult a physician.
The condition often goes undetected because many of its symptoms are vague, such as back pain or achy joints. That’s why it’s so important for family caregivers to be aware of the signs of osteoporosis. One way to spot early signs is by feeling your loved one’s wrists and looking for a crease at the joint (compare one wrist with the other). If there isn’t one, your loved one may have low bone density. As a home health aide, a caregiver can help a person with everything from taking a shower to standby assistance when walking. Fall prevention is extremely important.
How Caregivers Can Help
Home health aides and caregivers can help provide crucial support to those with osteoporosis by gently helping them get up from bed or a chair, ensuring they are using correct posture when sitting or standing for long periods, and providing them with necessary tools like walkers and wheelchairs. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that family caregivers encourage their loved ones to drink at least three cups of calcium-rich milk each day, eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamin D, and engage in weight-bearing exercise at least three times per week. When possible, people with osteoporosis can benefit from gentle exercise sessions led by someone trained in rehabilitation therapy.
Health Effects of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is most commonly associated with wrist, spine, and hip fractures. Fragility fractures happen when a person falls from a standing height or less and breaks a bone in one of these locations. This can be a sign of osteoporosis.
Hip fractures caused by osteoporosis are a serious issue for the elderly. After a hip fracture, the risk of death increases significantly, and fewer than half of those injured recover functionally, leaving many permanently disabled. After a hip fracture, approximately 25% of patients stay in long-term care facilities for a year or more.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
Elderly women are particularly vulnerable to osteoporosis. Estrogen levels, which aid in bone health in women, plummet during menopause. During menopause, many women lose more bone mass. Hormone replacement therapy can help to reduce the drop in estrogen levels that occurs during menopause, thereby preventing or even correcting bone loss. However, there could be negative health consequences, such as an increased risk of breast cancer. Consult your physician about what is best for your senior loved one. Despite having greater bone mass than women, men can also develop osteoporosis.
Senior Osteoporosis Care Tips for Caregivers
There are many things you can do as a caregiver to help your loved one after their osteoporosis diagnosis, such as providing them with quality nutrition, assisting them with exercises like yoga or tai chi, and supporting them emotionally through their journey. Here are some tips on how you can provide holistic care:
- Ensure your loved one gets enough calcium every day by making sure there are dairy products or calcium-rich foods available at all times.
- Encourage your loved one to get regular exercise, like walking or swimming.
- Be patient and help them maintain their independence as much as possible.
- Consider taking advantage of equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, and ramps.
Taking extra precautions can make the journey easier for both the senior and the caregiver. Remember “an ounce of prevention is sometimes worth a pound of cure”. Stay informed.
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