The Importance of Foot Care for Seniors

foot care for seniors

Our feet are workhorses throughout our lives. With 26 bones and 33 joints, as well as the variety of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that make our feet move might work seamlessly together for years. But as we get older, they start to break down. That can lead to serious problems, most of which culminate in foot pain. In fact, one in four adults over the age of 45 suffers from foot pain[1]. And that discomfort can cause issues of its own. The journal Gerontology points out that foot pain leads to a 62% increased risk of falls.

Other physical issues can lead to problems with our feet, including obesity and diabetes. Those who have a higher body mass index are more likely to experience foot pain[2]. That can then turn into a cycle: the foot pain can lead to a desire to avoid weight-bearing activities, which can lead to more weight gain, which can lead to more foot pain. Those with diabetes might experience decreased blood flow to certain areas of the body, including the feet. Poor circulation can lead to a host of problems, including a difficulty in healing wounds.

The good news is that it’s possible to keep your feet healthy through your golden years. Doing that takes knowing what foot problems to look for, having your doctor inspect your feet on a regular basis, staying healthy overall, and jumping on any problems as soon as they arise.

As part of taking good care of senior whole health, consider a medical alert pendant that can allow you to alert someone in any type of emergency (including a fall), either at home or on the go. Getting help immediately after suffering a fall can help ensure that the least amount of damage is done and get you on the road to recovery faster.

Potential Foot Problems for Seniors

Foot pain might be the most common problem you’ll face with your feet at any stage of life, so it’s important to get to the source. WebMD offers a brief list of what you might expect when your feet move into their golden years, including:

·         Diminished foot padding. The cushioned layer on the bottom of your feet is known as the fat pad. Over time, you start to lose fat in your feet, and that leaves your heel and ball of your foot in closer contact with the ground. This can lead to pain.

·         Ingrown toenails. Though this situation of a nail growing into the skin can happen at any age, it’s more common in seniors. Those who have diabetes or are overweight are more susceptible too, and so are those with unusually sweaty feet.

·         Cracking heels. As you get older and your skin gets drier, the effects on your feet can be pretty severe. The skin around your heels can become so dry that it starts to crack – small fissures will appear and might even bleed. It’s vitally important to keep your feet moisturized!

·         Flat feet. This happens when tendons that support the arch of your foot become damaged by diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or injury, among other things. Pain can result.

·         Morton’s Neuroma. This is a very common condition that affects a third of all individuals. You might feel as though you are walking on a marble or rock, as well as pain in the front part of your foot. Women are more susceptible to this.

·         Achilles tendonitis. A compromised blood supply as well as advanced age can make the Achilles tendon more susceptible to tears, which can lead to pain and swelling.

·         Osteoarthritis. Common among those 65 and older, this condition happens when cartilage breaks down and allows bone to rub against bone every time you take a step.

·         Gout. Another form of arthritis, gout is most common among middle-aged men. It happens when uric acid crystals collect in the big toe, leading to a stiff joint, swelling and pain.

·         Plantar Fasciitis. This is another one of those problems that can happen to anyone but is more common as we get older. Repeated stress on the foot can irritate the plantar fascia along the bottom of your foot. Being overweight or having high arches can make it worse.

·         Bunions. These are bony lumps that grow along the inside of your foot. They might be hereditary, but they are more common among women, particular those who wear tight shoes.

·         Bone spurs. These growths along the edge of the bones in your foot can eventually press on the nerves and cause pain.

·         Foot ulcers. These often start out as a small cut or blister but then turn into something worse, especially for those who have diabetes.

·         Abnormal bends. Hammertoe and claw toe are two conditions where the joints of your toe become misshapen. These are more common as we age.

·         Fungal infections. Though these can affect anyone, the typical lowered immunity of seniors means that they are more likely to get fungal infections of the foot.

·         Stress fractures. As our bone density drops, it’s possible to fracture the small bones of the feet simply by walking.

If you are dealing with any of these problems, a medical alert system with fall detection is an excellent choice. Any condition that leads to pain in your feet can lead to issues with your gait and balance. Those issues can then easily lead to falls. Alert1 fall detection button alarms for seniors have sensors in the device that can detect falls – and then the alarm device can immediately and automatically alert our trained professionals to send the help you need.

How to Properly Care for Your Feet on a Daily Basis

Many of us rarely give our feet much thought and surely don’t dwell on the proper way to keep them clean. But there are certain things that can help ensure better foot health. The Institute for Preventative Foot Health offers good advice. Here are some tips to remember:

·         Wash your feet well every day. When you’re done, dry them very thoroughly. Be especially careful to dry between the toes.

·         Use a good moisturizer on your feet to avoid dry and cracked skin. Don’t get the moisturizer between your toes, though, as this can lead to fungal infections.

·         Always inspect your feet for problems, including bumps, blisters, painful areas, discoloration, or anything that just doesn’t look or feel right.

·         Trim your toenails regularly, cutting them straight across and at a length short enough to not allow the toenail to rub against your shoes as you walk[3].

·         Wear clean, fresh socks and change them every day.

·         Avoid going barefoot anywhere, but particularly in public areas.

·         Wear shoes that fit properly, don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row (unless they are an orthopedic shoe designed for you) and keep the shoes clean.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

In addition to the daily care your feet need to stay healthy and strong, look at preventative measures that keep problems from building up over time.

·         Be on the lookout for fungal infections. Fungal infections of the feet can be difficult to treat and might not respond to over the counter medications. This is especially true if you have underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes. Show the problem to your podiatrist and follow their directions for using over the counter or prescription medications to clear it up.

·         Wear the proper shoes. Though heels and sandals might look great, these styles of footwear are not good for protecting your feet. Look for shoes that offer comfort as well as protection, such as athletic shoes with good arches. If you have foot problems, don’t go with typical shoes you buy at the shoe store. Instead, talk to your doctor about specialty footwear tailor-made for you. The American Podiatric Medical Association offers great tips for selecting the right shoes.

·         Avoid dry skin. After a shower, bath, or foot soak, massage your feet with lotion or cream. Avoid getting the lotion or cream between the toes; this will help you avoid fungal infections. Apply a thick layer of cream on your feet at bedtime and cover them with soft cotton socks to allow the lotion time to work on the dry skin.

·         Get your eyes checked. What in the world does vision have to do with your feet? Quite a bit, as it turns out – because if you can’t see the tiny problems starting on your feet, you might not catch them until they are too late. In fact, poor vision is one of the reasons many elderly don’t catch foot problems and get help quickly[4]. If you are having trouble with your vision, see an optometrist. You can also opt to use a magnifying glass that will show you a close-up of your feet. Inspect them on a regular basis to make sure small problems don’t turn into big ones.

·         Pamper your feet. Indulge in a variety of wonderfully soothing ways to keep your feet in great shape, including a relaxing foot soak made of ½ cup Epsom salt and a few drops of essential oils to a gallon of warm water. Soak for 15 minutes[5]. Use an exfoliating scrub from time to time. And don’t forget to exercise your feet while you are relaxing.

·         See a podiatrist. This becomes important as we age, but especially if you have been diagnosed with arthritis, diabetes, or any other condition that is known to affect the feet. Talk with your doctor to get a referral to the right specialist.

Finally, remember to contact your doctor at the first sign of a problem. Though you should always look for marks, discoloration, cuts, and other odd things that might happen to your feet, you should also be aware of how they feel. Nerve injuries can lead to unusual spots with little to no feeling. Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that can lead to numbness in the feet – on the other hand, it can also lead to burning or stabbing pain. If you are feeling anything odd, get in touch with your doctor immediately. Remember that diabetes is the leading cause of lower limb amputations in adults[6], but it might be avoided by catching problems fast and following your doctor’s instructions.

Even if your feet look fine right now, getting medical alert technology is a good idea. Why? Because sometimes foot problems can creep up on you and affect your balance. When your balance is compromised, you are much more likely to suffer a fall. Don’t get caught by surprise with no way to call for help! An Alert1 Medical Alert can give you the peace of mind that help is literally just a button push away. You can also use it for any other situation where you need help fast. Too many people wait until the worst happens.

Alert1 wishes you good health and happy feet!