What sort of recovery can my mum expect after breaking her hip?

6 answers | Last updated: Nov 18, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What sort of recovery can my mum expect after fracturing her hip?

Expert Answers

Laura Cheney, a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics, graduated with honors from the University of California at San Francisco in 2000. She loves her job working as the sole physical therapist at a premier life-care facility in San Francisco. She has written articles and lectured extensively on fall prevention and other issues relevant to the aging experience. As a registered yoga teacher, she teaches yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques to seniors -- helping them expand their repertoire for coping with stress, pain, and illness in the later years.


Typically, there are two ways to fix a fractured hip. One is to replace the hip and the other is to put pins and plates in it to stabilize the bone. Either way, she will require surgery. Sometimes after fixing the bone with plates and pins the patient is not supposed to put weight through that leg for a while after surgery. After replacing a hip, she should be able to put weight through it right away but there will be other motions that she has to be careful to avoid to protect the hip from dislocating. All these restrictions typically are advised for 6-8 weeks after surgery. Your doctor will notify you of those precautions. Otherwise, I can tell you the typical course of recovery here in the U.S. One has surgery and spends 3-5 days in the hospital until they are medically stable to transition to another lower level of care. A physical and occupational therapist will be in the day after surgery to help your mum start to move in bed and to perhaps sit at the edge of the bed, stand, and even walk a few steps. In these early days the patient is dealing mostly with potential side effects of the anesthesia and blood loss like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and inability to remain upright due to dizziness. Very soon, she will be walking with a walker and with assistance. She will then transition to going back home with assistance and home therapy or to an acute rehab center where she will get more therapy to work on walking, strengthening, walking up/down stairs if necessary, and self-care. She could stay there anywhere from 1-2 weeks. Upon returning home she will likely be walking with a walker or cane, will need a commode to raise her toilet seat level, and will be comfortably walking household distances. She may also require further outpatient therapy to return to her baseline ability level. There is so much variability in the recovery from a hip fracture, largely based on one’s prior mobility level, the severity of the fracture, and any other illnesses or health factors that may have an effect on the body’s ability to heal. Overall, I think you will be surprised at how quickly she can get back to walking and enjoying her life.

Community Answers

Lisbeth answered...

My mom broke her left hip (actually, her femur, right below the ball joint, what most people call a broken hip) five years ago at age 81. Her doctor did surgery to implant three screws to hold the bone together, and had her walking down the hallway the next day. She never took a pain pill, and was able to do rehab at home, with me only having to stop by once a day to check on her. She had an amazingly quick recovery.

Two years ago, my mom started having mild symptoms of dementia, but insisted on staying in her home. This past November at age 86, my mom broke her right hip, in the exact same place as the other hip. She didn't call me - I found out when I stopped by her house the next day. She was actually still walking (limping) around on it. I took her to the ER, and a surgeon (not the same one as before) implanted three screws the following day. This time, my mom stayed in the hospital a week, during which she was not allowed to put weight on the leg, then was transferred to a rehab facility. (While in the hospital, she kept forgetting where she was, and tried pull out her catheter and walk to the bathroom. I had to stay up there the whole time.) She stayed at the rehab almost a month, usually in a lot of pain, but never thinking to tell the nurse or ask for pain meds. She would just get very irritable and anxious, and the nurses would call me to come up there to calm her down.

I finally got the doctor to put in her chart that she didn't have to ask for a pain pill, that the nurses could use their own judgement, and this worked better. My mom came home after four weeks to live with me and my family, which has been a tough, but overall great, experience so far. A physical therapist came to our house for three weeks, although I had a very hard time getting Mom to do her exercises between times. Also, she didn't remember who he was from time-to-time. Now, five months after the fracture, the bone is knit, but she still has quite a bit of pain and walks with difficulty, using a walker.

On our last visit to the orthopedic surgeon, he tried to figure out why she was still in so much pain. Turns out, after she broke the first hip, her leg was shorter. This either developed or aggravated a curvature in her lower back, which makes it painful for her to walk or do many of the exercises she should be doing. I wish with all my heart I'd realized that we should have gotten her fitted with orthotics after the first break. This might have prevented some of the deterioration of her spine.

One thing that's showing some promise: I had a lot of trouble getting my mom to do her exercises on her own - she just couldn't remember what to do without constant prompting. So, I got one of my kids to use our camcorder to record me going through her exercise routine, slowly, talking the whole way, telling and showing her what to do, then transferred it to a DVD. Now I can put in the DVD and she will go through the routine on her own, for the most part. She's supposed to do the routine three times a day, so I go through it once with her, and use the DVD the other two times. It has saved a lot of wear and tear on my nerves, and she's just as happy to do it independently.

We are having to do a lot of stretching exercises right now because her muscles have gotten very tight. My mom refuses to go to a masseur, but this would probably do her a lot of good. I'm now looking into getting a recumbent bike, as it would help with strength, muscle tone, and range of motion.

Mom doesn't want to walk outside or go to a gym because she's embarrassed to have people see she needs a walker. I've found one of the best ways to get her to walk is to take her to the grocery store and get her to push the cart. (I walk beside and help guide it.) We go up and down every aisle, which is a good amount of walking. Mom has people to interact with, and she doesn't have to use an actual walker - she really enjoys this little taste of life the way it used to be for her.

I hope something in here helps. Stay positive, and don't hesitate to think outside the box. Good luck!

German girl answered...

i also broke my left hip at 71 it was very very painful, now 2 month later i walk with a cane during the day and walker in the evening i am very depressed i always been very active always walking swimming, now i cant do anything, i am alone a lot, my daughter is very busy i live by myself, i could not go thru this again i kill myself its awful worst thing i ever been thru cant walk without walker or cane hope it gets better with physical therapy.

Madathubby answered...

I just got diagnosed after spending a year rehabbing after a second voluntary spine surgery which left me dead. Luckily I survived. Or so I thought until today. After spending 2 weeks in bed waiting on my Obama Care insurance and doctors and feeling better I get to have an MRI and CTI find out I have a broken hip. I slipped on a rug set out for my husbands 17 year old dog that should have been put down a month ago.This happened just after I got a job after being unemployed 3 years. So now I have no job and am facing another year of rehab and so mad I can't see straight. I'm sure the anger will pass hopefully before I have a stroke. We just have to keep in going and crying and wishing Our lives were different but we will survive.

Martij7 answered...

I am 66 and broke my femur, which required a hip replacement. I am 9 weeks out and still feeling a lot of muscle weakness, which requires walking with a cane or crutch. It is frustrating and depression seeps in sometimes. I had an accident and fractured my femur. If you had a painful accident it takes a while to get over the trauma. Don't give up. I had water therapy for the first time today and am very hopeful it will help. I would suggest you try that with a PT that encourages pool therapy.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I (54 years-old female) fractured the head of my femur less than six weeks ago and had surgery with three pins placed into the bone. I I began walking with the help of a walker the day after my surgery and now I can walk without a cane and even go up and down the steps by alternating my feet. Needless to say, I do have substantial pain when walking and sitting but rather move regardless. I have a relatively slight built with early signs of osteopenia in my Lumbar spine but not my hip. According to my doctor, I am in the 90th percentile for the speed of recovery but cautioned me today repeatedly from lifting anything heavier that 5 pounds and not lift and carry any weight (which is hard not to do). I do not take any pain killers except occasional OTC IB Profen. I believe it is good to push yourself a bit beyond your limit for a better recovery. I will begin Physical therapy in two weeks and look forward to it.