Our feet perform some critical functions; they bear our weight, help us to move around, send information to our brains regarding our body position to aid balance, and also act as shock absorbers. We spend hours walking and standing, often in uncomfortable shoes.
We have over 50 bones in our feet – which is a quarter of the total number of bones in our body – which means, our feet have complex structures. It goes without saying therefore, that we need to take excellent care of our feet, throughout our lives. Unfortunately, most of us tend to ignore our feet, and only pay attention when something goes wrong – a blister, a splinter, a small wound.
The tiniest of problems in our feet can make us very uncomfortable. We put a lot of stress on our feet; as we age, our skin becomes thinner and less elastic. Reduced mobility can also set in, and all these impact foot health negatively. Feet can get infected and calloused if not cared for.
Seniors may find it difficult to bend down and properly clean their feet, cut their toenails, and so on, and may also be embarrassed to have someone else do it for them. However, elderly foot care is very important; chronic infections, cracked feet, and bleeding skin can become so problematic that in extreme cases, amputation may become necessary.
The most common foot problems in the elderly
Arthritis and joint pain
Arthritis and joint pain are extremely common, and can even affect individuals aged 40 and over. It can be very uncomfortable, and hamper normal movement, affecting daily life.
Blood circulation may be poor due to a variety of reasons, and enough blood may not reach the feet. This can also cause clammy feet, aches, cramps, and numbness.
Dry skin and calluses
Ageing causes the skin to become dry, and calluses and dead skin form easily. Dryness can cause severe itching; seniors often scratch, causing the skin to break and bleed. Calluses and corns are caused by skin thickening and friction from shoes. This can put added pressure on their nerves.
Athlete’s foot and similar infections often happen because of the warm, moist environment created by wearing shoes.
Seniors with diabetes often have damaged nerve endings, and this can cause a lot of foot pain in elderly, reduced sensitivity, tingling, muscle weakness, or extreme sensitivity to touch.
The Risks of Ignoring Geriatric Foot Care
If the feet are ignored, it could lead to a slew of problems, which may become difficult to treat. Whether or not a senior person has diabetes, their skin becomes thinner and drier, bones become weaker, and illnesses like peripheral artery diseases and arthritis set in. If senior foot care is not performed properly, there could be an increase in elderly feet problems like blisters, corns, callouses, ingrown toenails, bunions, fungal infections of toenails, and athlete’s foot; they could also develop plantar warts and plantar fasciitis, and flat feet. Senior patients have lower immunity as well, so even minor foot problems can lead to degenerative, incurable conditions.
With poor foot health, they are more prone to falls and slips, and getting injured. Their mobility is severely restricted, leading to a sedentary lifestyle, which brings up a host of lifestyle diseases – hypertension, obesity, heart disease, etc.
The Benefits of Proper Foot Care for Elderly
By providing proper care to old people feet, we can prevent the recurrence of the problems we spoke about above. Healthy feet are happy feet, and lead to healthy bodies. Seniors can have more comfortable and better-quality lives, and have enhanced mobility. They will be able to live more independently than before, and not have to depend on others for everything. By ensuring healthy feet for seniors, we can ensure that they have proper balance, are mobile, and enjoy better health overall.
Elderly Foot Care Guidelines
Foot care at home for the elderly can be provided by professional caregivers like Lana Life Care. Our caregivers are well-trained in elderly care, and they understand the importance of home foot care for seniors. Our caregivers regularly inspect their wards’ feet, and check them for any wounds, blisters, cuts, sores, infections, and odors. They clean them well on a regular basis, and alert their doctor if they notice any condition or injury. Moisturizing the feet is extremely important and an important part of our ‘at home foot care’ routine. A foot massage is very useful and helps in getting the blood flowing. The caregiver is also responsible for toenail care for elderly – clipping and filing toenails regularly to prevent them from growing too long and causing problems.
Seniors should also wear comfortable shoes that fit snugly but not tight, and help them move about. The proper shoes will help prevent falls, and not let blisters and sores develop. Shoes with pointed toes, high heels, and poor grip, should be avoided.
They should be encouraged to walk a little every day as it helps improve circulation, and being active can help them maintain ideal weight. They should preferably keep their feet covered in public to keep them clean and injury free.
Seniors should change their socks or stockings frequently, especially if they have become wet; feet should be dry to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
Sitting with feet propped up is a good idea, as is wiggling toes and stretching the feet every day – all these aid in blood circulation. For those seniors who can afford it, pedicure for elderly is also very helpful in maintaining foot health.
Those seniors who have foot odor should have their feet washed at least twice a day, and dried properly. Anti-bacterial foot sprays are available that help in keeping the feet smelling fresh, and free of infections. Feet should always be washed in lukewarm water, and never very hot or cold water. Adding bath salts to the water is an excellent home remedy to soothe tired and aching feet.
Nail care for seniors is very important, as nails tend to become brittle, split, and even grow inwards and dig into the skin, causing a lot of pain. Properly moisturizing them, filing and trimming them regularly, can help in preventing such problems.
Diabetic foot care for elderly includes all of these things mentioned above, and caregivers have to be extra vigilant about inspecting their feet as diabetics are the most susceptible to foot problems; they often lose sensation in the feet because of damaged nerves, and may not even realize that they have an injury in the foot till it’s too late.
ALSO READ: The Importance of Elderly Care at Home
Seeking Professional Help for Elderly Foot Care
We have seen how to take care of feet at home; however, it may become necessary to get medical help at times. If there are any infections, bleeding, sores or cuts that don’t heal or are taking too long to heal, it is wise to consult your doctor. The patient’s blood glucose may be rising, and the medications may need to be titrated. Or it could be a cardiovascular problem, where the doctor may prescribe additional meds and exercise, etc.
If you have chronic pain in the feet and/or ankles, you should definitely see a podiatrist. The reason for the pain could be anything – the wrong footwear, diabetic neuropathy, repetitive motion at work, hereditary conditions, or an exercise injury. A podiatrist will be able to help you and relieve the pain by recommending the ideal shoes and orthotics if required; they can reset bones, treat conditions like nail disorders, bunions, heel pain, sole peeling or scaling, cuts, warts, and discolored toenails etc.
In home foot care for the elderly can be provided by professionally trained caregivers like the ones at Lana Life Care. Even though the foot care tips at home discussed here are valuable, you may not have the time to do it yourself; providing care to a senior citizen can be daunting. It would be wise to call in the experts to do it on your behalf.
We have seen what are common foot problems in older adults and how they can be avoided with the right elderly foot care services. With healthy feet, we can ensure that the elderly have better health, are more confident about themselves, are mobile and independent, and lead meaningful lives. With the right care and attention, elderly citizens can be active and happy, and enjoy social interactions, instead of having to be confined to their homes and lead lonely lives.
Get professional elder health care services from Lana Life, and your loved one will be in safe hands. They will be well looked after, and won’t necessitate visits to the doctor frequently.
Call us now for more details.