The average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day for a lifetime walking average of 115,000 miles, or more than 4 trips around the earth.
Many older adults get frequent checkups, exercise regularly, and in general try to take good care of themselves, but one aspect of their health that they (and for that matter, younger people) frequently neglect is good foot care. Foot injury, neglect, and disease are major factors contributing to mobility, or lack thereof, in older adults. In one study, 71% of respondents aged 65 or older reported foot pain and problems, yet only 39% of them had sought medical advice and only 26% of them believe their foot problems were medical conditions.
Senior adults tend to experience more problems with their feet than younger adults simply because they have used them for longer. Women are four times more likely than men to have foot problems, probably because of the preponderance of high heels. Other conditions, such as diabetes and poor circulation can also affect foot health. The danger of neglecting feet can mean reduced quality of life; problems with coordination, balance, and gait, all of which produce an increased risk of falling; and can lead to diseases and infections. Like other parts of the body, however, good care and maintenance can go far in promoting health and ensuring that senior individuals remain mobile and independent.
Senior Self-Care for Feet
Healthy seniors should monitor foot health by regularly cleaning and examining the feet for any changes or irregularities. Using mild soaps followed with lotion helps keep the skin from drying out, cracking, and itching. Ensuring the feet remain dry helps to fight off fungal infections as well and keeping the feet warm can aid in circulation.
Keeping toenails properly trimmed helps prevent problems such as in-grown nails and toe pain. Toenails should be cut straight across, not curved, using clippers designed for toenails, and should be slightly longer than the tips of the toes. Also regularly stretching the legs, calves, and feet; walking; and wearing appropriate shoes promote foot health and prevent conditions such as plantar fasciitis, which can cause debilitating heel pain.
Assisting Elders with Foot Care
Caring for feet can become difficult for seniors who may be less flexible or have other impairments that prevent them from reaching, cleaning, and examining their feet. Caregivers may need to help in these cases, especially in seniors with medical problems, such as diabetes that can severely impact the feet, to ensure that feet and toenails are properly cared for.
Family caregivers should ensure feet are kept clean and dry and monitor the toenails for deformities or misshapenness, trimming them as necessary. They should also examine the feet for any fungal infections, sores, cuts, or cracking from dryness. These conditions can lead to disease, infection, and amputation in seniors with diabetes and other medical conditions, so they need to be addressed promptly by medical professionals. Caregivers can also aid with circulation by providing a stool for senior individuals to elevate their feet, and by providing ample opportunities for the older individual to sit and rest when out walking.
For information on how in-home care can help you or someone you love, contact your local Comfort Keepers® office today.
- California Podiatric Medical Association. General questions: Answers to frequently asked questions on feet and podiatric medicine. Retrieved from https://www.podiatrists.org/visitors/foothealth/faqs/general
- Madams, N. (July 2012). A dystopia of foot care? Generations Review, 22(3), 14-16. Retrieved from http://www.britishgerontology.org/generations-review/gr-issues-2007-to-present.html.
- Munro, B.J. and Steele, J.R. (May 1998). Foot-care awareness. A survey of persons aged 65 years and older. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, 88(5), 242-248. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7547/87507315-88-5-242.
- Ray, L. (August 16, 2013). How to take care of the feet & toenails of the elderly. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/74589-care-feet-toenails-elderly/.
- Zagaria, M.A.E. (October 19, 2012). Focus on the foot: Changes with age and disease. US Pharm., 37(10), 20-24. Retrieved from http://www.uspharmacist.com/content/d/senior_care/c/37044/.