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The Importance of Foot Care in the Elderly

It's very easy to overlook foot care in the elderly.  Naturally, our attention goes to "bigger issues" such as joints, illnesses and mental health.  Situated at the very end of our bodies and hidden away in slippers, we can all too easily forget how important it is for us (particularly older adults) to have healthy feet.  In this article, we address why this is such a crucial part of teh body and what you cna do to ensure that and elderly person in your care has tip-top toes!

The Benefits of Healthy Feet in the Elderly

By taking care of an elderly person’s feet and keeping an eye out for problems, they stand a better chance of: 
  • Staying Active.  Foot problems quickly reduce mobility.  If it’s painful to walk, naturally, your elderly loved one will walk less.  This reduces independence, limits exercise and risks the development of deep-vein thrombosis. 
  • Maintaining Balance.  Healthy feet improve balance in the elderly, thereby reducing the risk of falls.
  • Detecting Early Warning Signs.  Feet can actually help alert you to health problems at an early stage.  Problems such as diabetes, arthritis, poor blood circulation and nerve damage can all have a noticeable effect on the feet or toenails.

How to Keep Feet Healthy

Maintaining good habits and routines in relation to foot care will help to keep your senior loved one’s feet in great shape, meaning their quality of life is upheld and even improved. 
  • Check Feet Regularly.  At least twice a week, and ideally more often, check your elderly loved one’s feet to catch potential issues before they become serious.  Look for redness, bruises, sores, swelling, cuts, blisters and ingrown or infected toenails.  If bending over is difficult, you may even want to consider buying a long-handled mirror to help your loved one check for themselves. 
  • Wash Feet Daily.  Regular washing helps avoid infections and soreness, but make sure the feet aren’t soaking for longer than 10 minutes because this can cause the skin to dry and crack.  When drying your senior loved one’s feet, be sure to pat rather than rub and be thorough, particularly between the toes.  Talcum powder is helpful, especially if the feet are prone to sweatiness. 
  • Use Appropriate Lotions.  Plenty of creams and moisturisers are available to help keep feet healthy, especially if they are cracked and callused.  Make sure this is properly rubbed in and that no surplus remains. 
  • Wear the Right Shoes.  So many foot problems are caused by ill-fitted shoes, especially in women.  Various brands are designed with the elderly in mind, providing comfort, grip and support. 
  • Socks Too!  Just like shoes, poorly fitted socks can cause problems too.  It’s best to avoid socks with elasticated tops as these can be irritating and may even restrict circulation.  White socks will also make it easier to spot any blood or discharge.
The area of the foot that needs the most attention is toenails, so we devote the rest of the article to this! 

Caring for an Elderly Person’s Toenails

Toenail problems can be extremely debilitating and therefore, prevention is always better than cure.
  • Ingrown Toenails.  This occurs when the toenail curves downward and grows into the skin, usually at the side of the nail, which can cause swelling and pain.  If the skin is broken this can produce infection and problems are likely to be much more serious if the senior has circulatory issues or diabetes.
  • Fungal Infections.  In the early stages there may be no discomfort whatsoever, with only a thickening or discolouration of the nail, which can turn yellow or green.  If fungal infections become established then the nail can fragment and even fall off.  Walking often becomes difficult due to the pain.
  • Thickened Toenails.  This is known as onychogryphosis and is usually attributed to trauma or simply gradual damage over time.  This can be very painful, which makes walking a challenge. 
  • Overgrown Toenails.  Unkempt nails can grow beyond the end of the toes and even start digging into the skin.  This causes discomfort, pain and difficulties walking.
It is critical that seniors’ toenails are kept in good shape, and ironically, this is one of the first areas of personal care that elderly people find difficult to maintain because of the physical strain associated with bending over.  For this reason, they need help and it’s up to you to identify and provide it.
This article was written by Feet First Clinic.
Feet First Clinic is a fully functioning Chiropody Clinic offering a wide range of treatments and assessments associated with foot care, including its newest “just nails” service for elderly patients.  This involves nail cutting and a foot health check in the form of a shortened appointment for a reduced fee.  A fully qualified and registered Chiropodist assesses the senior patient’s foot health to identify and prevent future problems.


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