We often don’t pay much attention to our feet, even though we use them to get around. Feet can become susceptible to injuries and diseases, especially when we age. Feet lose cushioning, skin becomes dry, and nails become brittle. On top of this, many seniors suffer from poor circulation, which can make it difficult for foot sores to heal.
Fortunately, caring for feet is not too difficult. By taking some precautions, you can promote good health and help your elderly patient prevent foot issues.
Once a foot problem develops, providing proper care can be time-consuming and costly. Issues with the feet can be prevented with regular medical checkups. As a caregiver, you should make sure your patient has a foot exam at least once a year. If you have diabetes, you may need to see a podiatrist more often.
Common Foot Issues
Seniors are prone to several foot conditions. Dry skin can cause itching and cracking. Use moisturizers – particularly those that contain petroleum jelly – to keep feet hydrated. Just avoid putting lotion between the toes.
Athlete’s foot is also common. Despite the name, anyone can get this condition – not just athletes. This fungal infection thrives in dark and wet conditions. Redness, peeling, itching, and blisters are common symptoms. Fortunately, there are many sprays and ointments that can help treat this condition. You can prevent this by keeping feet clean and dry.
Ingrown toenails can be painful. Trim the nail straight across and keep it even with the top of the toe. Do not attempt to pull the nail, as this can cause infection.
Corns and calluses can occur when you wear tight-fitting shoes. If your patient has these, you can use a pumice stone to file them down. Just be wary of using medicated pads designed for corns and calluses. These can harm healthy skin and make matters worse.
Too much pressure on the feet can cause heel spurs. These are calcium deposits that form on the heel. To alleviate the pain, use heel pads and other forms of support.
The best way to prevent foot issues is to protect them. While tight shoes like high heels may be stylish, they lack comfort. This pressure can cause corns and calluses. In addition, feet tend to get wider as you age, so make sure your patient is wearing comfortable shoes and socks.
Exercise is essential. Your patient doesn’t need to work out at a gym or run a marathon, but he or she should engage in some light activity. Walking and stretches are great ways to prevent the feet from stiffening up.
Your patient can also protect his or her feet by avoiding smoking, which affects circulation by narrowing the arteries.
Foot Care for Diabetes Patients
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition that can affect the entire body – including the feet. A minor issue can quickly turn into a serious problem. That’s because diabetes damages blood vessels, which can cause wounds to heal slowly. A small cut or blister can lead to gangrene, which may require amputation of the foot. To further complicate the issue, diabetes can make you unable to feel pain, so many patients have wounds and foot diseases and don’t even know it.
If you have diabetes, you can prevent foot problems by keeping your blood sugar under control. Clean feet are healthy feet, so wash them in warm water daily. Check them daily for any blisters, calluses, or corns. Do not try to remove them yourself, as you could cause damage to your feet. Avoid going barefoot, as you could step on something that could cause injury to your feet. Always wear shoes, or socks at a minimum. Keep the blood flowing. Try to move around and exercise. Even wiggling your feet is helpful.
Going Above and Beyond
While caregiving involves helping patients with basic functions such as eating, dressing, and grooming, it also involves disease prevention. Not only should you check your patient’s feet regularly, but, if a cut is present on the foot, you may need to provide injury care for cleaning and dressing wounds. This will help avoid infections and other complications.