There are many reasons why the elderly are more likely to fall: balance deterioration, loss of hearing, dizziness due to medication, eyesight decline, and more. But the main problem of falling isn’t the impact itself, but what comes afterward. Since our bone density and muscle mass tend to decrease with age, the chance of breaking a bone is alarmingly high. On top of that, it takes our bodies much longer to recover from a bone fracture once we reach our sixties. Hip fractures are especially dangerous, as they will most often reduce a senior’s independence and can even lead to complications like urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and even death. Thankfully, there are plenty of options (including head protective gear, sock aids, bed commodes, and hip protectors) that help prevent older adults from falling or reduce the risk of injury if a fall does happen.
When You Need a Hip Protector
Hip protectors should be used by most seniors, as bone deterioration and muscle loss are a common problem that comes with age. Women are the ones who suffer the most, as they lose bone density faster than men due to the drop in estrogen levels during menopause. However, some specific medical conditions increase the chance of falling and bone fractures.
Probably the most well-known disease regarding bone fragility is osteoporosis. But other chronic medical conditions, such as endocrine and intestinal disorders, also lead to weaker bones. Additionally, there are some illnesses that don’t necessarily contribute to bone deterioration but do lead to a higher risk of falling like dementia, Parkinson’s, and low blood sugar.
Finally, you also need to consider the senior’s overall lifestyle. While certain medications can weaken bones, others can make the patient dizzy and more prone to falling. An unbalanced diet with low calcium and vitamin D intake and lack of physical activity are also important factors that lead to bone fragility.
If your loved one suffers from any of these conditions, it’s essential to get them a hip protector. Even if a senior seems healthy, we still recommend asking their doctor whether hip protective gear is necessary.
Recommended Hip Protectors for Seniors
GeriHip Hip Protector Pads & Brief
By teaming up with industrial designers and material scientists, Prevent Products Inc. developed an improved version of its previous hip protector, which is 60% more protective and 40% thinner. In other words, GeriHip Hip Protector is a comfortable support that will hold the PPI-RAP pads to the user’s natural body shape, providing hip protection while remaining discreet. It’s also antimicrobial and can be washed in the washing machine. GeriHip Hip Protector is to be worn as underwear or as an extra layer. But due to its tight fit, it can be difficult for seniors to put them on by themselves. The protector is available in small, medium, large, and XL, with prices starting at $54.95.
Medline Hip Protector
The hip protector from Medline comes with advanced spacer fabric pads that disperse the impact energy from falls. The material is breathable and form-fitting to make sure they're comfortable for the user, and they can be washed (and dried) in the washing machine. Since they’re designed for both day and night use, seniors can wear them 24/7 and be completely safe at all times. What’s more, Medline hip protector shorts can be worn as underwear and they hold incontinence liners in place. Sizes range from small to XXL, costing $49.99 with free shipping.
Safehip Active Hip Protector
On the more expensive side – $110.99 – you have Safehip Active Hip Protector. Since it's a belt with a Velcro strap, it's far easier to put on and take off than wearable hip protectors. However, it's designed for temporary use, making it a better match for active seniors who are afraid of falling when going for a hike, bicycle ride, etc. The hip protective gear can be used either under or over normal clothing, and it's built to suit the user's body. The company recommends measuring the widest part of the senior's hips to get the optimal fit for maximum comfort. Safehip offers free shipping, and you can return the item within 30 days to get a full refund.
Does Hip Protection Gear Work?
There are two types of hip protectors and each one works in its own way. While hip protective gear with soft pads absorbs the blow, hip protectors with hard shields disperse the energy from the hip towards the soft tissues of the thigh. You can also find hip protective gear with a mix of hard and soft shields, which are designed for both shunting and shock absorption.
Whether hip protection gear works or not has long been debated and there still isn’t a consensus. Clinic trials have shown that there’s some evidence that hip protection gear does reduce the chance of hip fractures, but it also slightly increases the chance of breaking the pelvic bone. Still, the main reason for such inconclusive studies is the user’s lack of compliance, with only 30% of the patients actually wearing their hip protective gear correctly.
Ideally, hip protectors should be used 24/7. After all, fall hazards don’t sleep, and seniors need to walk a dangerous path to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, wearing hip protectors isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’re an older adult. Those with memory loss might forget to wear them, and seniors with incontinence issues might find it hard to take them on and off. Additionally, hip protectors create a bulky appearance around the hips, which most seniors don’t really like. If you’re getting a hip protector for your loved one, then it’s essential to explain to them how lifesaving this protective gear can be and how it needs to be used at all times.
Other Ways To Prevent Falls and Fractures
There’s no way around the fact that hip protective gear is tremendously helpful to prevent hip fractures when used correctly. Despite this, it protects just one part of the body, and only if the senior falls sideways. For example, if the senior falls on their front (or back) and hits their head, hip protectors won’t help. Thankfully, there are other pieces of equipment you can get to ensure your loved one’s safety, like head protectors that help prevent life-threatening brain injuries.
Seniors can also improve their safety by doing balance exercises and fall-proofing their home, especially in the rooms where most falls happen, such as the bedroom and the bathroom. Moreover, you can get tools that help the elderly do daily activities independently without the fear of falling, such as sock aids, bedside commodes, and walking canes.
Finally, medical alert systems that come with fall detection are great when a fall does happen. This system automatically connects the senior to a 24/7 specialized monitoring team, who will call for assistance even when the user can’t respond. This way, help will arrive within minutes, which is essential for a fast recovery in case of a bone fracture.