While feet may be a touchy subject for people of any age, we all should appreciate the miles our feet haven taken us over a lifetime. With daily weight bearing for decades (not to mention unsupportive footwear), feet can take a real beating, but how many of us show our feet the love they deserve?
As we age, our legs and feet can develop painful conditions, such as osteoarthritis, poor circulation, or neuropathy, which can be secondary to diabetes, medical treatments, strokes, or other medical conditions. That is why senior foot care is so important: without regularly tending to a loved one’s tootsies, minor problems can snowball quickly into severe conditions that require immediate medical attention. Here are a few suggestions that can help with routine foot care.
A Moment of Silence for Barking Dogs
Personal hygiene is a head-to-toe task, and that includes the toes! Your loved one may be embarrassed about the appearance of her or his feet, so you should put that concern to rest with compassion and reassurance.
Feet can give you a lot of information about overall heath. For example, if your senior is diabetic, he or she may have trouble feeling the floor because of neuropathy or have infections from sores that cannot heal properly. Mobility can be a factor as well; if your loved one has sore or painful feet, he or she may be less likely to get up and walk around, which can impact strength, range of motion, and flexibility. Even poor eyesight can limit a senior’s ability to care for their feet properly. As you can see, feet are kind of a big deal.
Tips to Treat Tired Trotters
Senior foot care should be part of your or a caregiver’s routine, and making it a pleasant experience for everyone can take away some of the discomfort or awkwardness. Start with a visual inspection, looking for discoloration, bruising, cracked or broken skin, dusky nails, and any signs of sores or infection. At this stage, your loved one may need to see a doctor to address foot issues that cannot wait. If no obvious concerns require medical attention, you or a caregiver can continue with the new, improved foot care regimen.
Helpful Hints for Hooves
Once a day, moisturize your loved one’s feet to improve circulation and stop dry skin from cracking. It is best to apply moisturizer on clean, dry feet, especially after a bath or shower. Put on slippers, treaded socks, or other footwear to keep your loved one from slipping if the lotion or cream has not absorbed yet. If showering is not a daily activity, try a warm foot bath, perhaps with Epsom salts, to relax and pamper your loved one. It can also soften tough skin and thick toenails, which can make additional care easier.
After drying off your loved one’s feet, carefully drying between the toes. Scan your loved one’s feet and make note of any other problems, such as corns, calluses, or reddened or purplish patches. Trimming nails is best left to a podiatrist because of the danger of injury, infection, or bleeding. A monthly visit should be sufficient to care for nails, and most podiatry services are covered by Medicare. If your loved one is in a residential facility, ask about podiatry visits on site.
Here are a few more suggestions to consider for senior foot care:
- Sanitize any equipment you use, from the foot bath to the trimmers, to avoid infection, especially if these items are shared with other residents or family members
- Have your senior wear proper footwear with arch support, a square toe box for more room, flat soles, and a moderate surface grip to prevent falls
- Rotate shoes to let the worn pair dry and prevent blisters
- Inspect shoes to see if they have worn out and need to be replaced
- Clean feet daily either in the shower or by wiping them down to remove dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells
- Take shoes and socks off periodically to air out your loved one’s feet
- Check between toes for any skin growths or possible infection
- Make sure that the floor is clear of tripping hazards, especially for seniors with neuropathy who may not sense items under their feet
If your father has foot pain, he should be seen by a medical professional to assess his condition. Once you have a better idea of the source of his discomfort and address it, you can add these foot care steps to his personal care and grooming routine to keep him and his tootsies happy. Don’t forget to look at your loved one’s feet about once a month if you are not the one providing foot care to ensure all is as it should be.