18/05/2021 by Kim Stevens 0 Comments
Putting Your Best Foot Forwards: Foot Care For The Elderly
Our feet go through a lot - In fact, by the age of 50, the average person has walked a total of 75,000 miles! Now imagine you’ve been on them for 70+ years, and it’s no wonder that recurring foot pain and discomfort is a common issue for seniors. Brittle nails, dry skin, skin and toenail discolouration, cramping, numbness, tingling and swelling can all be signs of conditions such as circulatory problems, arthritis and diabetes.
It’s important for carers to be aware of changes in the feet of elderly patients, and to examine them on a regular basis.Aside from being painful, foot disorders can seriously affect an older person’s mobility, which is why tending to the feet of someone who is elderly is vital in keeping them comfortable, happy and independent for as long as possible.
Diabetes And Feet
An estimated 25% of those living with diabetes will develop foot problems at some point, and so if you’re caring for an elderly person who has the condition, it’s crucial that you keep a close eye on their feet.
Cuts, blisters, cracks, calluses and pressure sores are not uncommon, but if there are no signs of such injuries healing within 24 hours, it’s important to contact the person’s GP.
If you are caring for an elderly loved one, whether they’re living with a condition such as diabetes or not, we’ve put together a tootsie-checklist, so that you can help them to care for their feet and keep them in tip-top condition.
Check that an elderly person isn’t wearing socks that are too tight that they’re inhibiting blood flow to the feet. Ideally, socks should be seamless and NOT 100% cotton, which can hold onto moisture from sweat and cause a breeding ground for bacteria. Moisture-wicking socks, such as those that are an acrylic blend, when worn with slippers or shoes that have an enclosed toe can protect a person’s foot from injury.
Keep Feet Squeaky Clean
It sounds obvious, but good foot hygiene will help prevent fungal and bacterial infections. Of course, it depends on whether an older person is able to bathe themselves, or needs help, but it could be that their feet aren’t cleaned as regularly or as well as is recommended.
A simple, twice-daily, foot wipedown with warm, soapy water and a soft washcloth can keep odour-causing bacteria at bay. It can also be a relaxing treatment to aid sleep if done before bed.
Keep Skin Soft And Supple
The skin on our feet is often neglected, but it is an area prone to dryness, cracking and flaking - especially as we age. Regularly applying moisturiser to feet after they have been washed and dried can prevent open foot sores, lock in moisture, and keep skin soft and supple.
Keep Nails Trimmed
Ingrown toenails are something everyone wants to avoid, but, for a senior with circulatory problems, an ingrown toenail could end up leading to amputation! Aside from this, overgrown toenails can cause pain and discomfort when walking or wearing shoes. Keeping older loved one’s nails trimmed and filed - either yourself or under the care of a podiatrist, is something that should be done regularly.
If you’re caring for an older person who has dementia, it can be a good idea to create a relaxing, spa-like experience for the procedure. Their favourite music or TV show as a distraction, and maybe a foot soak and foot massage, could make this necessary event less stressful.
If The Shoe Fits
Over time our feet flatten and widen...the fatty ‘padding’ wears down, leaving bones and joints exposed to wear and tear. For the majority of older people, it will have been a long time (if ever!) that they have had their feet measured and sized before buying shoes.
Shoes that are too big or too small can cause rubbing and blisters as well as impair mobility. It’s worth noting that older people should avoid wearing heels and that closed-toe shoes which support arch type, foot width and ankles are preferred.
Older people, particularly those who are living with conditions like diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or conditions that limit mobility, might experience reduced circulation in their feet, which can lead to blood clots.
Massage, elevating the lower legs when resting, and compression hose can all help improve circulation in the feet.
If In Doubt - Seek Medical Attention
There are many common foot conditions, such as bunions, corns, calluses and discoloured toenails that can cause problems for an older person. If you notice that an elderly loved one is suffering from any of these - no matter how harmless it may appear - it is always worth making an appointment with a GP or podiatrist in order to prevent future problems such as infections.
At Care In Kent we offer a range of at-home care services for older people. To find out more, call to speak to a member of our dedicated team.