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What is osteoporosis?

What affects the risk of osteoporosis?

When we’re young, bone density increases until it reaches its maximum in our late 20s, however once past that age it begins to decrease again. For women, it can be even more pronounced after the menopause, due to a decrease in the levels of the hormone oestrogen, but medications and some medical conditions can also have an effect for both men and women.

Expert osteoporosis home care from trained nurses

Helping Hands prides itself on the expert care we offer, and this is reinforced by our team of clinical nurses, who manage our packages of care for people who need more complex support. Living with osteoporosis may mean you need additional support with some of your everyday tasks, such as personal care, mobility, undertaking housework, and accessing the community. If you have specific care and support needs, our carers will be specially trained to meet your requirements, whether you need them for a few hours a week or around the clock.

How is osteoporosis treated?

According to the NHS, treating osteoporosis involves “treating and preventing fractures, and using medicines to strengthen bones.” If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, then you’ve probably been given a bone density test to see how advanced the condition is, and the results of that will determine the treatment you receive. Other factors such as your age, sex, risk factor, and whether you’ve broken a bone before are also considered when making a diagnosis. If it is decided that you should take medication to treat your osteoporosis, you may be offered the following:

Bisphosphonates – these make your body slow the rate that bone is broken down. This reduces your risk of a broken bone by maintaining bone density.

Selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) – SERMs have a similar effect as oestrogen on bone. They also reduce the risk of fracture by maintaining bone density.

Parathyroid hormone – this is produced naturally in the body and regulates the amount of calcium in bone. Hormone treatments stimulate the cells to create new bone which can help to maintain bone density.

Biological medicines – proteins or other substances produced by the body can be utilised to make biological medicines. These will slow the rate at which your bones are broken down, and speed up the building of bone by cells.

Calcium and vitamin D supplements – most adults should be able to get the recommended amount of calcium by enjoying a varied, healthy diet containing sources of calcium. However, for people with osteoporosis, calcium supplements are recommended to maintain healthy bones. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and is drawn from sunlight, however during the winter it may be difficult to absorb enough Vitamin D naturally, so supplements can help.

HRT (hormone replacement therapy) – HRT has been shown to promote bone strength which will reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It may be effective at strengthening the bones of people who already have osteoporosis as well as being given as a preventative measure in younger women who have early menopause.

Osteoporosis in the elderly

As we age, instead of keeping essential minerals in our bones that maintain bone density, the body can reabsorb them, leading to not enough new bone being generated. This bone loss can lead to osteoporosis. Sometimes, osteoporosis is only diagnosed in the elderly after a person has already broken a bone and a bone scan is subsequently carried out. Before then the potential symptoms of bone loss, such as losing height or developing a ‘stoop’, may be put down to ‘natural’ effects of ageing, and a GPs opinion may not be sought.

Whether you’ve already broken bones or are considered at risk of doing so, the worry of falls may lead you to limit your mobility, and consequently miss out on certain aspects of your life that you’ve previously loved. This could be going out with friends, enjoying hobbies, or even getting out of a chair at home. Having some additional support with your mobility can make all the difference to you enjoying your quality of life again, and that’s where a Helping Hands carer could really enhance your everyday life.

Managing your osteoporosis

As falls can result in a broken bone when living with osteoporosis, measures need to be in place to make sure your risk of slipping, tripping, or falling is minimised. Hazards need to be identified in your home, such as rugs, clutter, and slippery floors, and measures taken to reduce the likelihood of you falling over them. Rugs and carpets should be fixed in place, trailing wires rerouted safely, and clutter tidied away but still easily accessible should you need it. Pain can also be something that you struggle with, however there are different ways that your pain can be managed, and your GP will be able to discuss these with you. Methods to manage your pain can include painkillers, heat treatments, cold treatments, massage, and relaxation techniques, and having a Helping Hands carer supporting you at home means they’ll be able to help with your pain relief methods too.

Osteopenia and Osteonecrosis

Prior to osteoporosis, is a condition named osteopenia. This is diagnosed as a lower-than-normal bone density for a person your age, however it’s not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. Being diagnosed with osteopenia doesn’t mean you will go on to develop osteoporosis, and steps can be taken that will reduce your risk by keeping bones healthy. You may also be prescribed medication for osteoporosis to help strengthen your bones.

Osteonecrosis is the death of bone tissue. This can lead to problems with healing and cause pain and other complications.

Osteonecrosis care FAQs

The death of bone tissue that occurs with osteonecrosis is caused by a lack of blood supply to the area.

It’s often recommended that you rest the area that is experiencing osteonecrosis, but this is something you should discuss with your GP. Certain types of exercise may be more suitable than others for you, and you can be advised by your physiotherapist or healthcare team.

Physiotherapy may be recommended during the early stages of osteonecrosis, as this can help to reduce pain, and further damage to the bone. Pain relief can also be offered. Surgery is another option, which will involve procedures to slow osteonecrosis progression.

Treatments for osteonecrosis usually involve surgery, including the possibility of a bone graft, bone reshaping, joint replacement, or drilling into the bone. However, there is a strong possibility that the person will be left with some pain and affected movement even after treatments are attempted. Pain relief will also be offered, as well as advice on non-surgical alternatives, such as physiotherapy. Your GP and healthcare team will also advise you on activities to be avoided.

How can I arrange care at home?

Arranging care at home with Helping Hands is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. You can use our webchat service to quickly learn more about the care we can offer.
  2. You can call our friendly customer care team, seven days a week, to discuss whether you’d prefer visiting care or live-in care, and have all your questions answered.
  3. You can pop into your local branch and meet the care team, have a chat, and discover your options for care at home. You can find your nearest branch here.

How quickly will I receive help?

Care at home from Helping Hands can begin very quickly. Depending on your circumstances and requirements, we can have a carer in your home within 24 hours, meaning that you’ll be fully supported with every aspect of your daily routine.

How can I help an elderly person with osteoporosis?

While a focus on person-centred care obviously means a person has the right to eat what they wish, if you are caring for a family member or friend who is living with osteoporosis, you can help them to make the best lifestyle choices for their condition. Suggestions about which aspects of their lifestyle they could change may be around diet, exercise, and fall prevention, although they have the right not to take your advice of course. Our carers will always support you to make changes to your life that you wish to, however we won’t ever tell you what to do. That goes against every part of our ethos for only providing the very highest standards of person-centred care.

Is there a natural way to fight osteoporosis?

Fighting osteoporosis can and should begin in a person’s younger years, by developing healthy habits regarding diet and exercise, as well as making sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D. It’s also recommended to not smoke and to limit alcohol consumption. The NHS recommends that “adults aged 19 to 64 should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.” Weight bearing and resistance exercise are also considered particularly beneficial to maintaining bone density, which can help to prevent osteoporosis. Even if this isn’t possible due to a health condition, there will be some exercise that can be adapted to your personal circumstances, and this should be discussed with your GP or local healthcare team.