The older we get, the more important it is to take good care of our feet. For many reasons, foot health tends to decline in seniors. Reasons why senior citizens experience common foot problems include:
• Years of walking, working and healing from injuries;
• low quality, too small or uncomfortable footwear;
• poor circulation;
• increased risk of diabetes, gout, heart disease and other diseases causing foot problems;
• Difficulty properly trimming toenails due to impaired vision or mobility.
Left untreated, common elderly foot symptoms can quickly worsen and lead to more dangerous issues like falls and infections.
It’s important to address any foot issue early as foot pain can often be an early warning sign of a more serious health condition, such as arthritis, circulatory disease, gout or diabetes.
Seniors or caretakers should seek professional advice for:
• Brittle or discolored toenails;
• burning or tingling in feet or toes;
• discoloration or cold/numb feet;
• chronic or acute pain in feet and ankles;
• blisters or cracked skin;
• sores or wounds.
Even when elderly foot pain isn’t a sign of a more serious problem, it can still cause pain in the knees, hips or back and lead to decreased activity. Aging skin becomes thinner and less elastic, which makes blisters and corns more common.
Common foot problems include diabetic ulcers, corns and calluses, ingrown toenails and fungal infections (athlete’s foot).
Many of these problems can be mitigated with proper foot care. Decreased circulation may mean an elderly patient doesn’t always feel uncomfortable symptoms in their feet, so it’s important to establish a routine of healthy foot maintenance.
Here are some tips for maintaining elderly foot health:
• Inspect feet and nails regularly;
• use mild soap to wash feet, and always dry thoroughly;
• use lotion as needed to prevent dry, itchy or cracked skin;
• wear properly fitting shoes and clean cotton socks;
• elevate feet using a footstool or cushion when seated;
• don’t sit with legs crossed;
• trim toenails regularly.
Elderly diabetic foot care
Seniors with diabetes must be even more vigilant about foot care. Diabetes often damages blood vessels in feet. As a result, wounds heal more slowly and may develop gangrene. A small issue like a corn or blister can develop into a serious infection and may even lead to amputation.
Diabetes also damages nerves in feet, making small injuries harder to detect. Elderly diabetic patients can reduce risk of diabetic foot problems with careful attention to foot health daily.
Diabetic seniors are urged to learn and practice good foot care habits. In addition to the tips listed above, it’s important to:
• Visually check feet every single day;
• always wear socks and shoes, even indoors;
• carefully wash feet daily;
• if possible, safely increase activity level to promote circulation;
• do not smoke.
Toenails should be carefully trimmed on a regular basis and kept clean and short. Long nails are more likely to snag, break or accidentally scratch the skin. When trimming, check the area around the nail for signs of an ingrown nail, hangnail or fungus.
Proper toenail trimming procedure includes:
• Cutting nails after a shower or bath, or use a foot soak to soften toenails;
• sanitizing nail clippers by boiling or cleaning with rubbing alcohol;
• washing your hands before and after cutting your toenails;
• trimming nail straight across without curving down at the ends;
• never cut calluses on the feet or nail bed.
Seniors often struggle with proper toenail care for various reasons, including failing eyesight, reduced flexibility or arthritis in hands making it difficult to use toenail trimmers. The Finney County Senior Center has a monthly foot clinic that can help you with your foot care. Call 272-3620 to set up an appointment.
Thursday: TOPS, 8:30 a.m.; art class, 10 a.m.; ice cream social; 12:30 p.m.; bridge, 1 p.m.; Skip-Bo, 1 p.m.; Medicare appointments only 1 to 4 p.m.; strength training, 4 p.m.; PIYO, 5:30 p.m.; yoga, 6 p.m.
Friday: Line dancing, 8:30 a.m.; a nurse from St. Catherine Hospital is here from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.; Enhance Fitness, 1 p.m.; foot clinic, by appointments only, 1 p.m.; bridge, 1:15 p.m.
Saturday: The pool room is open from 1 to 4 p.m.
Sunday: Duplicate bridge, 2 p.m.
Monday: Double pinochle, 12:30 p.m.; Enhance Fitness, 1 p.m.; strength training, 4 p.m.; Zumba, 6 p.m., duplicate bridge, 7 p.m.
Tuesday: Walking, 9 a.m.; pitch, 12:30 p.m.; Medicare appointments only, 1 to 4 p.m.; bridge 1:15 p.m.; PIYO, 5:30 p.m.; yoga, 6 p.m.
Sept. 19: Line dancing, 8:30 a.m.; Completely Unraveled, 9:30 a.m.; pinochle, 12:30 p.m.; Enhance Fitness, 1 p.m.; dance featuring Ortiz Band, 7:30 p.m. (recommended donation is $5).
Thursday: Chicken stir fry over rice, broccoli, fruit
Friday: Salisbury steak in mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes/gravy, carrots, Fruit
Monday: Goulash, California vegetables, garlic bread, chocolate cake
Tuesday: Roasted turkey breast, mashed potatoes/gravy, green beans almondine, fruit
Sept. 19: Chicken spaghetti, broccoli, corn muffin, orange sherbet
Patti Thummel is the interim executive director of the Senior Center of Finney County and director of Meals on Wheels.