Aging comes with health issues, inevitably. One of the easiest issues to overlook, particularly for seniors, is foot health. Many factors can contribute to this, including an inability to find foot care providers, lack of knowledge about it, and not using the right tools to support good foot health. Here is an overview of what seniors (and frankly, anyone) should understand about good foot care.
Foot Care and Health
The human foot contains 26 bones making it a very intricate body part. Both feet are responsible for holding up a person’s weight, and they can endure a lot of stress and strain. There are different factors that influence foot health including:
- Level of activity
- The type of shoes worn
Older adults may develop conditions like structural changes due to thinning fat pads on the bottom of the feet. Bony spurs on the heel and inflammation of the ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot are also common structural changes.
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Pain and soreness are common issues seniors face as well. It can prevent someone from being able to stand or sit comfortably or to stand for long periods of time. Other common foot complaints for elderly people are issues like:
- Heel pain
- Ingrown toenails
Tips for Good Foot Care
Since the human foot does undergo significant wear and tear over time, it’s important to treat them well. Giving them a nice massage or a soaking is a good start. Keeping toenails trimmed is another vital part of foot care. As people age, their ability to reach their toes diminishes, so having a caregiver, family member, or a professional like a podiatrist do it is one way to keep toes look in great shape.
If a non-professional is taking care of the toenail trimming, make sure the nails are trimmed straight across the top and are no longer than the tip of the toe. When any discoloration or irregularities present themselves, think about having a podiatrist cut the toenails instead of going to a nail salon.
For seniors who cannot leave the home or have trouble getting around, look into having a podiatrist who makes home visits. Some doctors accept medical insurance as well as traditional cash or credit cards, and they may be willing to set up regular monthly visits so that the older person has access to regular foot care.
Prevent fungal infections by changing socks and stockings frequently to keep moisture from building up. Using a good foot powder can help prevent fungal infections to begin with by drying up moisture. Wear footwear that fits perfectly. It shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Shoes shouldn’t rub against the feet or cause injury to them. Sizing is important as well. They need to fit well and be closed-toed otherwise, improper fitting shoes can cause falls, ingrown toenails, or general discomfort.
Don’t forget to moisturize feet. Using coconut oil or a shea-butter will help moisturize dry skin on the feet and help eliminate cracks. Resist using scented lotions or ones with fragrance in them because they have a tendency to dry skin out instead of moisturizing it.
Senior Foot Care Pointers
Always use the right equipment when taking care of a senior’s feet. This means sanitizing things like metal toenail clippers and changing nail files every few weeks to avoid introducing fungus or infection. Anyone taking care of a senior’s feet should always wash their hands before touching them to make sure that no germs are transferred.
For seniors who need some specialized support for their circulation, consider having them soak their feet in the bath tub or a small dedicated foot bath. Outside of this specialized care, develop a routine to make sure that a senior’s feet are washed and clean on a regular basis. Clean feet help prevent against the spread of viral, fungal, or bacterial infections.
Monitor the feet for any signs or evidence of sores. They commonly occur on the heels of the feet. The heels are prone to sores because seniors spend a lot of time in bed or in a chair with their feet against a pillow or a stool which puts pressure on them. The best way to keep pressure off the heels is by propping a seniors ankles up so that the feet hang in the air without touching anything.
Seek medical advice if you notice that a senior does develop bunions, calluses, and discolored toe nails. Their opinion will tell you whether or not to worry about possible infections.
Well-fitting shoes are not just key for foot wellness, they can also help prevent falls and other injuries.
Good shoes should be sturdy instead of lightweight and flexible because lighter shoes can cause injuries like twisted feet or ankles and falls more frequently. When shoes are too big, they lack support and can cause someone to lose their balance.
Likewise, if shoes are too tight, they can cause pain and make walking difficult for an older person. Heavy shoes cause shuffling in older people which can lead to a fall. Soles of shoes contribute to falls as well because they cause seniors to slip without proper grip, which is why slip-resistant sole materials are so important. Seniors should consider specific types of shoes and accessories depending on their needs such as:
Walking Shoes: These have the right balance of traction and stability. They help seniors maintain their balance and walk without having to stop and concentrate.
Shoe Insoles: A sturdy, yet flexible shoe insert, can help relieve foot pain, pressure, and provide better posture and balance. In fact, the majority of people who wear FitMyFoot custom insoles say they have less pain and feel more stable on their feet.
Laceless Shoes: Consider shoes without laces help seniors who don’t have the ability to tie their own shoes may need these types of shoes instead.
While nothing can stop the aging process, having good foot care can help make life safer and more enjoyable.