Saturday, January 15, 2011

Broken Hip: 97-year-old's Fall, Surgery, Rehab, Amazing Recovery--Part 1 (of 4)

97-year-old Recovers and Regains Independence After Fall and Broken Hip--Part 1
Finally, I'm back. Getting wireless internet connection while out here with R, as she prepares to leave rehab, took longer than expected.  That said, a recap of R's experience will, I hope, provide a frame of reference for those going through this not-for-sissies/prima-donnas experience.
For everyone fearful of...caring for...or recovering from...a broken hip,  Help! Aging Parents will chronicle Senior Advisor R's fall, her "rescuers," surgical consideration, rehab highlights and insights, and lastly her preparation for returning home.  Ultimately she will be aided by an alarm wrist bracelet, a cane, and a walker with a basket for carrying things (the rehab therapist says she only needs additional support when things must be carried from place to place). No caregivers.
Part 1: The Fall, the Rescuers (911 and doctors)
What follows may repeat snip-its from earlier posts.  But the chronology and additional information make it hang together better.  R. didn't have an alert pendant.  In late September she was walking from her bedroom to the kitchen when she noticed her twice-a-month cleaning help had moved something on the desk she was passing.  She reached over to reposition it, realized she was losing balance, grabbed the nearest chair, but it wasn't heavy enough to support her weight, and they both fell on the carpet.
R. remembers she grabbed at a table leg thinking she'd pull herself up; she couldn't. One side of her body would not move. She knew immediately she couldn't get up. That ad, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up," for the first time--resonated, R said.
The next 3 hours were spent inching her way back towards the bedroom, to a telephone.  She rolled over on her stomach and with her arms in front "kinda pulled her knees and body along." Her knees sustained carpet burns, one of which is still not completely healed.
The phone, on a table, was too far to reach from the floor, but there was a waste basket nearby.  R grabbed it, was able to reach up and, after repeated attempts, knocked the phone out of the cradle.  "Very hard work," she says.  She phoned a nephew, who drove to her home, called the doctor, got the answering service, who told him to call 911.
The paramedics came immediately. First 2, then more to make certain her condition was stable then to place her on the gurney and transport her to the hospital designated by her primary care doctor (who by this time had been contacted).
Now in the "right" hospital, the next step was the "right" surgeon, for this 97-year-old, with a broken femur. R's primary care doctor was insistent on one particular orthopedic surgeon who had "technical excellence" and "good hands."  Why?  "Surgery is a trauma to the body. It is not tolerated as well in the elderly as in the young," according to R's highly regarded doctor.  "It's important to get in, get out, do a quick job with less anesthesia, less blood loss, less time in the operating room.  That means less trauma."
Clearly these early steps cleared the way for R's ultimate excellent recovery and gave us far-away-living children (one of us was out here almost all the time) confidence that--in terms of helping parents age well--we were on the right track. To be continued...

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  1. This is the reason I don't want to leave my aging mom alone. Unfortunately, there are just times that I need to be somewhere else and I fear that my mom would do something silly to broke her hip yay. God forbids. I hope R would recover soon, and especially those who had their hips replaced and were victimized by asr hip recall.

  2. Thanks so much for this blog. The mother of a friend of mine broke her femur and is in the recovery phase at age 86. We are both concerned about her recovery path. It is heartening to hear your story and helpful to hear the psycho social needs and how you addressed them.