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Foot Care with the Elderly in Mind

As we age, certain things are neglected. As a matter of fact, neglect of the feet starts long before true aging occurs. Many elderly persons are unable to care for their feet. A number of them have varied foot problems, and with good foot care, their overall health and well-being can improve significantly.

The critical things that don’t happen, or aren’t carried out effectively are:

  • Cutting of toenails
  • Managing filing of dead skin cells
  • Getting down to wash and dry between the toes
  • Be able to moisturise the feet
  • Inspecting the feet, particularly in persons with diabetes.

Being a very active person when younger, would have impacted too:

  • A housewife always on the go
  • A gym enthusiast
  • Involved in sports
  • Had a profession that involved plenty standing or walking.

Due to the years of wear and tear on the feet, you’re now prone to certain foot problems. The footwear you used was a critical factor in determining how well supported the feet were. Others elements that make it difficult on the feet are: poor circulation, disease, improperly trimmed toenails, and wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. Problems with our feet can be the first sign of more serious medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, nerve, and circulatory disorders.

 

Prevent Foot Problems

Practice good foot care. Check your feet regularly, or have a member of your family check them. Podiatrists are qualified to treat most foot problems. Though sometimes, the special skills of a general practitioner, an orthopaedic surgeon, or dermatologist, are needed.

It also helps to keep blood circulating to your feet as much as possible. Do this by putting up your feet when you are sitting or lying down; stretching if you’ve had to sit for a long while; walking; having a gentle foot massage; or taking foot soaks. Try to avoid pressure from shoes that don’t fit right. Don’t sit for long periods of time, (especially with your legs crossed). Don’t smoke, and don’t drink excessively.

Wearing comfortable shoes that fit well, can prevent many foot ailments. Here are some tips for getting a proper shoe fit:

  • The size of your feet changes as you grow older, so never assume your shoe size. The best time to shop for shoes is at the end of the day, when your feet are largest.
  • Most of us have one foot that is larger than the other, so fit your shoe to your larger foot.
  • Don’t select shoes by the size marked inside the shoe, but by how it fits your foot.
  • Select a shoe that is shaped like your foot.
  • During the fitting process, make sure there is enough space to facilitate your longest toe at the end of each shoe, when you’re standing.
  • Make sure the ball of your foot fits comfortably into the widest part of the shoe.
  • Don’t buy shoes that feel too tight, and expect them to stretch to fit.
  • Your heel should fit comfortably in the shoe with a minimum amount of slipping; the shoes should not ride up and down on your heel when you walk.
  • Walk in the shoes to make sure they fit and feel right. Then take them home and spend some time walking on carpet to make sure the fit is a good one.
  • Thick soles cushion your feet when walking on hard surfaces.
  • Low-heeled shoes are more comfortable, safer, and less damaging than high-heeled

Common Foot Problems

Warts (Fish Eyes)
  • Fungal and Bacterial Conditions – including athlete’s foot, occur because our feet spend a lot of time in shoes – a warm, dark, humid place that is perfect for fungus to grow. Fungal and bacterial conditions can cause dry skin, redness, blisters, itching, and peeling. If not treated right away, an infection may be hard to cure. If not treated properly, the infection may recur. To prevent infections, keep your feet – especially the area between your toes – clean and dry. Change your shoes, socks or stockings often, to help keep your feet dry.
  • Corns and calluses– are caused by friction and pressure when the bony parts of your feet rub against your shoes. If you have corns or calluses, see your doctor. Sometimes wearing shoes that fit better, or using special pads solves the problem. Treating corns and calluses yourself may be harmful, especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation. Over-the-counter medicines contain acids that destroy the tissue but do not treat the cause.
  • Warts– caused by viruses, are sometimes painful; if untreated, they may spread. Since over-the-counter preparations rarely cure them, see your doctor. A doctor can apply medicines, burn or freeze it off, or remove it via surgery.
  • Bunions– develop when the joints in your big toe no longer fit together as they should, and become swollen and tender. Bunions tend to run in families. If it’s not severe, wearing shoes cut wide at the instep and toes, taping the foot, or wearing pads that cushion it, may help the pain. Other treatments include physical therapy and wearing orthodontic devices or shoe inserts. Sometimes surgery is needed to relieve the pressure, and repair the toe joint.
  • Nail care/ Ingrown toenails – occur when a piece of the nail breaks the skin, which can happen if you don’t cut your nails properly. Ingrown toenails are very common in the big toes. They can often be avoided, by cutting the toenail straight across, and level with the top of the toe. Partial nail or full nail avulsion surgery is also an option. For general nail care, see your podiatrist or pedicurist, as required.
  • Foot and leg pains – may be due to arthritic changes, or an old injury rearing its head. Stretches, massages, aqua therapy, and/or physiotherapy, are the types of therapies recommended to treat with such.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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