Between nutrition, activity, and chronic conditions, it’s easy to put senior foot health on the back burner. This is a huge mistake because feet are very reflective of a person’s overall health. Lack of care puts seniors at risk for infections and injuries. Plus, foot care and diabetes are carefully intertwined.
Here’s what caregivers, senior home health aides, and loved ones should know about senior aging and keeping feet healthy. When discussing foot health, it’s always pertinent to keep common diabetes symptoms in mind as well.
Why are Seniors at Risk for Foot Problems?
Aging brings with it several challenges from the head down to the feet.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), every American will have walked a shocking 75,000 miles by the time they turn 50 years old. It’s easy to see why seniors experience foot pain so often considering how much weight they carry over this distance – even in relatively small people.
Seniors also face poor circulation which decreases blood flow to the hands and feet. Improper footwear over the course of a person’s life plays a large role in foot problems as well.
Older adults frequently suffer from chronic conditions that can complicate matters where foot health is concerned like heart disease, diabetes, and gout.
To top it off, the elderly’s generally poor mobility makes it difficult to care for feet and nails.
Common Foot Conditions in Older Adults
While minor aches and pains are fairly standard with senior aging, chronic pain and complaints could likely indicate a more serious problem.
Left untreated, even seemingly insignificant foot conditions like an ingrown toenail can progress into very serious problems requiring hospitalization or amputation. In other cases, foot problems may serve as symptoms for other serious underlying conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
- Athlete’s foot and fungal infections
- Corns and calluses
- Ingrown toenails
- Stress fractures
- Fallen arches
Osteoporosis and brittle bones are both very common in older adults. The feet have intricate tendons, ligaments, and bones which are all particularly susceptible to hairline or stress fractures.
Stress fractures – along with fallen arches – can significantly impact a person’s ability to exercise which has an extremely negative effect on long-term health. Foot pain can also affect a senior’s ability to care for themselves, if severe enough.
These conditions may not cause overwhelming pain so they’re often more difficult to identify. That’s why it’s so important to monitor changes in senior foot health.
Foot Care and Diabetes Go Hand in Hand
People seem to understand that foot care and diabetes are related but they might not know which diabetes symptoms to look for or how this happens.
Diabetes affects blood circulation which makes it difficult for minor wounds to heal. This also results in nerve damage that can decrease a person’s ability to identify injuries or problems.
Watch Out for these Common Diabetes Symptoms
In addition to the foot problems above, caregivers and loved ones should keep an eye out for these common diabetes symptoms in seniors.
- Persistent thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
- Yeast infections
- Numbness in extremities
- Slow-healing wounds
7 Tips for Maintaining Senior Foot Health
The job is really up to family members and senior home health aides to monitor senior foot health. Loved ones can use the following tips to keep feet in top health.
- Choose acrylic blend socks. 100-percent cotton socks don’t remove moisture quite as well as they’re advertised.
- Keep toenails trim. Pay special attention looking for any inflammation. Trim nails and file them into a rounded edge.
- Wear shoes that fit correctly. Most people wear shoes that are too tight or small which can lead to infection and ingrown nails. At the same time, shoes that are too loose can cause dangerous falls.
- Get up and move. It’s important to get up and move around to support healthy circulation around the foot. Avoid sitting cross-legged.
- Daily stretching can keep the tendons, ligaments, and bones mobile and less prone to injury.
- Keep feet covered. Walking around barefoot puts seniors at risk for injury.
- Don’t forget some pampering. Foot baths, spas, and moisturizer are all excellent ways to relax and encourage proper senior foot health. Just don’t use moisturizer in between toes because it can lead to fungal infections and always dry feet off completely.
Seek professional medical attention for symptoms like brittle or discolored nails, burning or itching, chronic blisters, infections, sores, or pain.