OSTEOPOROSIS is going undiagnosed within many residential aged care facilities, leading to greater risk of fracture that most residents will never fully recover from.
In the first large scale study of its kind, researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney have found osteoporosis is drastically under-reported, with only 30 per cent of residents having the condition recorded on their electronic health record.
The study sample took in more than 10,000 residents from 68 facilities in NSW and the ACT over a period of three years.
This is inconsistent with international research that shows around 85 per cent of people living in residential aged care have osteoporosis.
"We believe that the lower than expected number of people with reported osteoporosis in NSW and ACT aged care facilities is due to under-reporting in the health record, rather than lower rates of disease," said lead author Kim Lind, of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation.
Osteo diagnosis and management is a prime example of where systematic monitoring of adherence to medication guidelines could quickly improve the care of our most vulnerable people, Dr Lind said.
"We predict that the actual number of people in aged care facilities with osteoporosis is much higher and those missing out on a diagnosis are not being treated for what could lead to a serious life-threatening injury," Dr Lind said.
Researchers conclude that people in facilities have so many other chronic health issues such as dementia, diabetes or heart disease that their osteo is not recognised or prioritised and therefore not treated, thus it is not reported on their health record.
Results from the study suggest that many people may not be receiving the PBS-subsidised medication that would reduce their risk of fracture.
Even a minor bump for an older person with osteo may result in a fracture as osteoporosis reduces the density of bones, weakening them significantly.
"Fractures in older people can severely affect their quality of life with pain, loss of independence and in some cases death," Dr Lind said.
Researchers believe greater attention to the diagnosis and treatment of osteo is among this high fracture-risk group is warranted.
The study was conducted by the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University.