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Iris Grant Onrot
Iris Grant Onrot

We all know the huge movement in the U.S. around fall prevention, but many people are forgetting something else that is equally if not more important: Finding the right hip protector for your residents and loved ones. Most people will fall no matter what you try to implement in facilities or in the home.

There are many hip protectors on the market, but how do you know which one to purchase? What should you look for? In my opinion, there are three things you need to consider when choosing a hip protector for your residents or loved ones.

The first thing to look for is impact absorption. People can do a simple test to see if the hip protector they have been using will “really protect the hip.” Simply pinch down on the hip protector pad with your fingers. Does it bottom out?  If you can pinch your fingers down that easily what kind of impact do you think it will absorb when someone's entire body weight falls onto the pad? I say, “If it bottoms out, throw it out!”

Many people have used the same hip protector for years at their facilities because that is all that has been on the market. Today, there are others out there with a very high impact absorption rate and superior testing.

Besides pinching down on the pad, find out what kind of impact studies have been done to test the pad.  Did the manufacturer use a simulated hip or a biomechanical study? Try to have some knowledge of the amount of force that is needed to fracture a hip.  (It takes approximately 4113+/-1527 Newtons to fracture a hip bone, according to the majority of published studies.) The average person falls with a force that is between 5,000 Newtons and 10,000 Newtons or more.  That is a huge amount of force.

There is much controversy about using a simulated hip in an impact study as there are many independent variables that effect the test. There is no accurate way to replicate the human hip of a live person.  In a true biomechanical impact absorption test of hip protectors, the striker is usually a steel ball or flat steel surface that falls directly on the pad and what is measured is the force that comes through the pad.  This is a much more intense testing protocol.   

Another issue to look at is what the highest force the pad is tested at and make sure the pad you are using is tested at these higher levels. Ask the manufacturer to explain what force of impact they used for their testing and make sure it is above what it takes to fracture a hip.

To find the best hip protector,  look to see if the pad simply consists of a piece of foam sealed in plastic to make it water proof or is there an inner core to absorb the force of impact?

The next thing to look for is user compliance.  Does the manufacturer have any independent studies from facilities showing the success of their product? Think: “If I needed a hip protector would this one be too big or too bulky or is it streamlined enough for me to wear?” That is another way to determine if your residents or loved ones will wear them.

The third thing is affordability.  Does the manufacturer only sell one hip protector in a package, therefore making you purchase more at full price to protect your senior for a week's time? Does the manufacturer sew the pads into the undergarments or are they removable? Can you purchase extra undergarments at a less expensive price to get your senior through the week with one washing?

Some other things to look at are: Does the undergarment bring dignity to the person wearing them? Does it come in a male and female version, or is it a unisex undergarment? What about the incontinence product wearer? Does it bring dignity to the resident and make them feel better?  You want people to feel so comfortable wearing the product that they forget they are wearing a hip protector. Ask yourself: Is this the right product for the person I am caring for?

After all is said and done, look at the quality of the product. Is it something you would wear?

Iris G. Onrot is the co-inventor of ComfiHips®. To learn more, call 877-857-1110.    


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