The average person walks about 10, 000 steps each day, so when we talk about health, why is foot care often left out of the conversation? Healthy feet allow seniors to stay mobile, which means they can participate in their favourite activities, remain physically active and enjoy more independence. May is Foot Health Awareness Month, which is why we are bringing you our top tips for happy, healthy feet.
Know the Risks
Certain medical conditions indicate an increased risk for foot problems. For example, seniors with diabetes are highly susceptible to nerve damage, infections and poor circulation in their feet. Proper foot care is important for all seniors, but especially if an existing condition predisposes them to complications. Talk to your doctor to find out if you should be extra diligent about foot health.
Is it Arthritis?
It’s important to know if any foot pain seniors are experiencing is linked to arthritis. Osteoarthritis, which is most likely to develop in the big toe, occurs as a result of years of wear and tear. Rheumatoid arthritis often targets the bottoms of the feet, and can increase the likelihood of calluses and ulcers. A health care professional can help you identify the source of any foot pain. If it is arthritis, we have many helpful resources for managing the pain and assisting seniors.
Keep Clean and Be Consistent
The key to managing and preventing foot problems is daily care. Seniors should set aside time every day to wash their feet with soap and warm water, including between the toes. After thoroughly drying the feet, apply a moisturizer containing UREA to the tops and bottoms to avoid dryness and cracking. Cleaning your feet helps prevent infections and is also a good opportunity to thoroughly examine them for any issues. Using a hand mirror or asking a caregiver for assistance, seniors should check their feet for cuts, blisters, red spots, bruises, swelling or any problems that could lead to infection. Noticing changes right away will help seniors and their caregivers take action and prevent these issues from worsening.
Don’t Skip Nail Care
As we age, our nails contain less water, which can make them dry, brittle and inflexible. To avoid cracks, splits and ridges, it is important for seniors to keep their toenails hydrated by including them in their moisturizing routine, especially after bathing. It is also important to regularly clip toenails straight across, while being careful not to clip them too low or into a V-shape; this will help prevent broken or ingrown toenails.
Get the Proper Gear
Proper footwear is key to preventing pain and discomfort; shoes that are too big can cause a person to trip or fall, while shoes that are too small can cut off circulation or cause blisters and broken nails. Be aware that a senior’s shoe size may vary over the years, especially if they experience swelling, so it is important for seniors and caregivers to be cognizant of any changes. Make sure that shoes are comfortable, the proper size, and that they offer enough support. For seniors with arthritis or mobility challenges, shoelaces can be painful or even impossible, so shoes should be easy to get on and off. It is important to note that seniors should never walk around barefoot, but rather should always be wearing thick, soft cotton or wool socks that protect and cushion their feet.
Maintaining circulation in your legs and feet can help combat swelling, stiffness and mobility issues. While sitting down, seniors should roll their ankles and wiggle their toes for several minutes, two to three times per day. Instead of sitting for long periods of time, seniors should try to stand up and move around as often as possible, or at least keep their feet elevated while seated and avoid crossing their legs. Consistent physical activity, such as walking, is a great way for seniors to keep their leg muscles strong, which in turn support the muscles and tendons in the feet.
We hope you feel more prepared to properly care for your feet, but we understand it can be a challenging task, especially if you experience limited mobility or confusing symptoms. Our nurses have all completed a specialized course in advanced foot care, and can visit your home at your convenience to help with nail care, circulation and any issues you are facing. Healthy feet really are steps away!