There are certain precautions that you should take if an elderly parent or grandparent with osteoporosis is in your care. The reason is that osteoporosis makes the bones brittle, and while it may not have immediate outward manifestations, osteoporosis can lead to easily broken bones. Broken bones present a greater danger in the elderly, because if they are down for any prolonged period the further functioning of their body’s systems may become compromised causing pneumonia may set in, etc.
You can see that it is important not only to try to build up bone density, but to do everything possible to keep the bones of an elderly person with osteoporosis intact. Get your mind set on prevention and half the battle will be won.
Based on elderly grandparents whom I’ve watched deteriorate and become greater risks to themselves through osteoporosis and other elderly friends and loved ones for whom I’ve cared, I’s like to offer a few suggestions, often learned through trial and error, that may make your care of an elderly person with osteoporosis easier.
Be involved in medical care when caring for a person with osteoporosis.
Facilitate doctor’s visits
First and most importantly, see the doctor. The doctor will place the patient on recommended doses of supplements or prescription medications to encourage the redevelopment of bone tissue. Your doctor is also your first resource in dealing with any other medical conditions or questions that may arise as a result of living with osteoporosis.
Be a patient advocate
It is important, as the patient ages, for you to not only take the person to the doctor, but remain in the examination room as an advocate and a second set of ears. This helps you to be on the same page with the doctor regarding the patients care.
Encourage elderly osteoporosis patients to stay on their medication
Sometimes elderly become suspicious of medications and, I believe sometimes, even doctors. As a patient advocate and caregiver you can assure them that the doctor is looking out for their best interest. The medications are correct, and also make sure that medications are taken as prescribed.
Tips for the physical care of individuals with osteoporosis.
Grip bottom soles
One of the biggest helps we found in caring for my grandmother with osteoporosis was to provide shoes, for both indoors and outdoors, with gripping rubber soles. If the elderly person for whom you are caring prefers to wear socks or house shoes around the house make sure they have grips on the bottom. Slick shoes or socks are an invitation to slip and slide. A fall is the biggest danger for a patient with osteoporosis because it may lead to broken bones.
Cane, stable walker, and handrails
Stability is the key to preventing falls and fractures. Be sure that the elderly person who has osteoporosis has a stable walker or cane for added stability.
Add handrails to bedsides, bathrooms, and stairways to assist with stability when walking. I’ve seen osteoporosis patients live long enough and become so weak, that eventually handrails were standard throughout the house. Do whatever is necessary to help the elderly person in your care stay on their own two feet as long as it is possible and safe.
Eliminate stairs where possible; make others as safe as possible
If stability and balance continue to decline you may find it necessary to replace stairs, especially entrance and exit stairs that can become slick with rain and/or ice, with handicap access. At the very least make sure handrails are securely fastened to the wall and will support the weight of the patient.
Use bathing chairs, stools, and mats in the bath as necessary
Ideally, the elderly person for whom you care has a walk in shower in which you can place a shower bench. Getting in and out of the bathtub becomes ever more difficult and creates a huge opportunity for a bone crushing fall. If, however, their only access is to a bathtub, be sure that safety handrails are installed. This includes handrails around the toilet.
Keep clutter off the floor
Keep the floor clear of clutter, big and small. Clutter is a tripping hazard. Even small toys and debris can cause a spill, especially if the elderly person in your care does not pick up their feet when they walk, but shuffles along. Pay attention to the placement of rugs. It has been my experience that elderly people love to use throw rugs. However, these rugs can become a dangerous tripping hazard for individuals with osteoporosis.
Make sure lighting in the home is adequate
An elderly person with osteoporosis may be able to get around their own home, but it is important that adequate light is available in every room of the house to prevent accidental run-ins with furniture or tripping over objects in the floor.
It is a good idea to have a supply of flashlights or small battery operated lanterns around the house in that can be used at night, or in the event of a loss of electricity. Nightlights are also invaluable when the elderly patient awakes at night and needs a bit of light to see by before they get out of bed or move about the house.
Once you have safe-guarded against a fall, prepare in case of an emergency
If your elderly osteoporosis patient lives alone, it is a good idea to provide him or her with a cell phone. This will keep them from having to get up and down to answer their home phone, and, most importantly, provide them with a means to contact help in case of an emergency. Another alternative, although more expensive, is to provide an alarm system with an emergency medical response apparatus.
Caring for an elderly friend or loved one with osteoporosis is not as difficult as caring for an elderly person with certain other debilitating diseases or conditions. The most important thing is preparing a safe environment that will reduce the risk of falls and, therefore, broken bones.
Personal knowledge and years of experience working with elderly