Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones. It causes them to become brittle, so that they break easily. When an older adult has osteoporosis, even coughing could cause a rib to fracture. It also means that a fall could lead to a broken hip or wrist. People from all ethnic backgrounds are at risk for the disease, but elderly Asian and white women are at the highest risk.
If your older family member has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, the first step in becoming an effective caregiver is to learn as much about the disease as you can. Below are 5 facts about osteoporosis to get you started.
#1: Some Bone Density Loss is Normal with Age
People are at the peak of bone density when they are between the ages of 25 and 30. By age 40, people start to lose some of their bone density. Women lose bone mass more rapidly after menopause because of the decrease in estrogen. However, the loss that occurs with osteoporosis is greater than the usual amount, putting the older adult at a higher risk for broken bones.
#2: Osteoporosis Can Lead to Limited Mobility
One of the worst complications of osteoporosis is fractured bones. Breaking a hip can cause permanent disability, possibly even leaving the older adult wheelchair bound. When the bones of the spine are affected by osteoporosis, it can cause a hunched posture, which may affect mobility.
#3: Men Tend to Get Osteoporosis Later in Life Than Women
Men have higher bone density than women do going into middle age when bone loss begins. They also don’t lose bone mass as quickly as women do. As a result, men are usually 10 years older than women are when they get osteoporosis. At the same time, men are also more likely to break a bone after getting osteoporosis than women are.
#4: The Goal of Osteoporosis Treatment is to Prevent Fractures
Because bone breaks are such a serious complication of osteoporosis, the main focus of treating and managing the disease is to keep the senior from breaking a bone. To do that, it’s necessary to take some steps to avoid a fall, such as:
- Installing handrails and grab bars.
- Using an assistive device, like a cane or walker.
- Increasing lighting in the house to prevent tripping in the dark.
#5: Elder Care Can Help to Prevent Falls
An elder care provider can help keep seniors with osteoporosis from falling and breaking a bone. Elder care providers can assist the senior while they are walking, offering them an arm for balance or making certain they are using an assistive device correctly. In addition, an elder care provider can remind the senior to take medications and supplements suggested by the doctor to manage the disease.