Broken Femur Elderly

A broken femur in an elderly person is a serious injury with potentially life-threatening complications. Nursing homes have a duty to keep residents safe and reduce the risk of injury. Sadly, too many residents have suffered injuries from neglectful or abusive staff.

Leg cast

The femur is the heaviest, strongest, and longest human bone. Forming the core of the upper leg, it attaches to the hip socket at the top and the knee joint at the bottom. It works hard but is surprisingly vulnerable—especially for elderly individuals, who are often susceptible to broken femurs.

As adults age, their bones become weaker and less able to withstand trauma. Many people move into assisted living and skilled nursing facilities during these years. Families choose these facilities to provide their loved ones with attentive, professional care. Unfortunately, too many nursing home staff members fail to uphold those standards.

Many nursing home residents are victims of mistreatment, from neglect of basic care to outright physical abuse. This negligence often leads to severe injuries, including a broken femur. Recovery is no simple matter—if the individual survives the injury.

Risk of Broken Femur in Elderly Nursing Home Residents

If you or a loved one is over 65 and has broken a femur, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 300,000 people 65 and older require hospitalization for hip fractures yearly. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says falls are the most common cause of broken femurs in elderly patients.

One study reviewed nearly 6,000 older adults in nursing homes and dementia care units and found that 77 percent had a high risk of falls. These falls are more likely to result in broken bones if the person has one or more of the following:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Loss of bone mass
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Sedentary lifestyle habits
  • Long-term alcohol or tobacco use
  • Personal or family fracture history

Certain medications may also increase an elder’s risk of bone breaks after a fall. Attentive care mitigates an older adult’s fall risk, while negligence and abuse increase it.

How can femur fractures happen in nursing homes?

Nursing home neglect leaves many residents without the supervision they need to navigate their world safely—something families expect as the bare minimum.

Neglect also leaves nursing home residents at higher risk of depression and malnutrition, both of which increase fall risk. A study showed that approximately one in five nursing home residents had some form of malnutrition, often stemming at least partially from inadequate care. In another study of 97 nursing home residents, 47.4 percent actively suffered from depression or had a diagnosis on record. Unfortunately, only half of those with acute major depression received treatment. 

In nursing homes, femur fractures can also result from physical abuse or improper care, such as staff improperly lifting residents into beds and wheelchairs.

Families choose nursing home care when their loved one is unsafe living alone. When a nursing home fails to provide that safety, it should pay compensation—especially when an expensive or even fatal injury has occurred.

What happens when an elderly person breaks their femur?

If an elderly individual falls and health care providers suspect a femur fracture, the person’s care team will examine the leg and order X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans. These scans allow doctors to determine the fracture type and develop a treatment plan.

Almost all broken femurs require surgery. Your loved one may need a splint or traction to stabilize the femur until surgery can happen.

How long does it take for an elderly person to recover from a femur fracture?

The recovery process after surgery usually takes three to six months, but it may take longer. Meanwhile, your loved one will undergo physical therapy and may receive pain medication.

Elderly patients require attentive care at every phase of femur fracture recovery. They need help with daily living, rehabilitative exercise, and careful attention to medication. Most importantly, they need caregivers to treat them with tenderness and respect.

Potential Complications After Nursing Home Femur Fractures

According to a study on people with hip fractures, around one in five patients suffer medical complications after the injury. Many of these complications follow surgical treatment and may include:

  • Cognitive changes
  • Heart problems
  • Internal bleeding
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Pressure scars

Quality post-operative care is crucial for avoiding dangerous complications. Patients need caregivers to monitor nutrition, control pain, and encourage mobility.

Mobilization is essential for recovery in post-fracture elderly patients. Prolonged bed rest without sufficient movement can lead to blood clots, bed sores, pneumonia, and disorientation. Patients who walk within 10 days of the injury have a significantly higher survival rate than those who don’t.

Failing to provide adequate post-surgical care is a form of nursing home abuse.

Elder Life Expectancy and Mortality After Femur Fracture

Studies have shown an increase in death rates after femur fractures. In one study, 10 percent of elderly patients with femur fractures died within 60 days of their injury.

Inadequate nursing home care increases a patient’s risk of early death. A long-term analysis showed that 25 percent of nursing home residents died within 96 days of their injuries, compared to 435 days for those residing elsewhere.

Lack of informed and compassionate care is likely a significant contributing cause. Neglectful care increases the risk of medical complications and makes it harder for the patient to recover.

Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Although a broken femur in an elderly individual may be purely an accident, it’s often a symptom of a bigger problem. A nursing home’s job is to keep your loved one safe. A broken bone is a sign that something has likely gone wrong. Other signs of nursing home abuse and neglect include:

  • Visible injuries, including unexplained bruises or cuts
  • Broken eyeglasses or torn clothing
  • Uncleanliness and poor hygiene
  • Medication overdoses or underdoses
  • Changes in the elder’s behavior
  • Elder reports of mistreatment

If your elderly loved one broke a femur in nursing home care, you have a right to know what happened. If the person is lucid, find a private moment to ask them what happened. You can also ask their doctor to look for signs of abuse.

What to Do If Your Elderly Loved One Broke a Femur Due to Nursing Home Negligence

Families should be able to trust their loved ones’ nursing homes to provide protection and safety. Unfortunately, too many nursing home residents suffer neglect and physical or mental abuse.

It’s important to seek legal representation to protect your and your loved one’s rights. Federal and state laws safeguard the right to freedom from abuse and neglect in care facilities such as nursing homes. If your loved one’s nursing home compromised this right, you might have a legal case against the facility.

When caregivers break that trust and negligence or abuse causes an injury, the patients and their families deserve compensation. An experienced nursing home attorney can fight for victims of abuse and neglect.

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Patricia Shelton, MD

Picture of a woman smiling


  • University of Washington, Doctor of Medicine – MD. June 2008
  • University of Washington, Bachelor of Science – BS, Jun 2003


Neuroscience and Medicine


  • Dr. Shelton primarily writes content for health-related websites, but has also written test prep materials, white papers, published research articles, court documents, and more.
  • Dr. Shelton teaches anatomy and physiology at the college level for the National Institutes of Health.

Do You Need Help?

Legal Help

Icon of love

Nursing Home Abuse Should Have Consequences.

Fact Checked

Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.