Orthogeriatrics, or geriatric orthopaedics, refers to the management of orthopaedic problems (disorders in the bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments) in the elderly. Your risk of orthopaedic issues such as hip fractures, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis increases with age, and these medical conditions are a leading cause of falls among the elderly.
Osteoporosis is a bone condition which occurs when bones lose their strength and mass. This happens when bone tissue is lost at a higher rate than it is produced. As this happens, bones become more fragile and prone to fracture. Bones in the hip, spine and wrist are particularly susceptible to fractures.
Described as a "silent disease", there are generally no symptoms in the early stages of this condition. At an advanced stage, you may experience symptoms such as:
Factors that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis include:
Osteoporosis is highly treatable. To treat osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe medication such as bisphosphonates, calcium, and vitamin D supplements to help increase bone density.
To prevent osteoporosis, it is important to exercise regularly to build stronger and denser bones, and observe a healthy diet. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sodium as these foods can lead to bone loss and/or affect bone formation.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints, and is the most common form of arthritis (inflammation of the joints). It occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of bones is worn down, causing the bones in our joints to rub against one another. Although those above 60 are more likely to be affected by osteoarthritis, an increasing number of younger and active Singaporeans have been diagnosed with premature osteoarthritis from sports injuries.
Osteoarthritis usually develops slowly and increases in severity over time. While osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, it commonly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips and spine. Common symptoms include pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of flexibility, swelling and a grating sensation in our joints.
Factors that increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis include:
To treat osteoarthritis, doctors can undertake cartilage repair procedures and complete joint replacement procedures in severe cases.
Losing weight, doing low-impact exercises and taking joint supplements such as glucosamine regularly can help to slow down the development of osteoarthritis.
Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are two conditions that can lead to mobility issues among the elderly, increasing their chances of falling.
Falls are common among older adults and can cause minor injuries such as bruises and scratches. However, more severe falls may result in serious injuries such as fractures and head trauma. These can lead to reduced physical function, early admission to long-term care facilities, and an increase in elderly mortality rates.
While younger people can make speedy recoveries from falls, the recovery time for an elderly takes much longer, depending on the severity of the fall and their health condition. Therefore, it is important to senior-proof your surroundings, as well as ensuring that older people have the necessary assistance when moving about.
Some tips to prevent elderly falls include:
The simplest way to reduce your likelihood of falls is to remove loose items such as electrical wires, slippery rugs, and clutter. Hazardous house fixtures such as uneven floorboards are some examples of things that can cause tripping.
Installing safety devices such as handrails and grab bars in areas such as toilets and stairways can go a long way in supporting your mobility around the home. Non-slip mats are a good option to prevent slipping in the bathroom.
Keeping your home sufficiently bright can reduce your chances of tripping over objects on the ground. Consider putting lights (such as lamps, ceiling lights or torch lights) around areas like your bedrooms, bathrooms and stairways.
Your doctor can work with you to craft a fall-prevention plan. Your doctor can review aspects of your lifestyle and health such as your medication and existing medical conditions (e.g. eye and ear disorders) that may be contributing to your risk of falling.
Ensure that someone is accompanying or assisting you especially when you are going out or walking longer distance
Use a walking aid or walker and keep an emergency tag, phone, or keyring with you.
Go through your medications with your doctor and review their side effects so that you can look for alternatives if the drugs make feel you drowsy.
Both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are treatable conditions which left untreated, can increase your risk of falling. Do consult a doctor early if you suspect that you may have either condition.