How Do You Take Care Of Elderly Feet?

Aging comes with a higher risk of various foot conditions such as chronic pain, cracked heels and osteoarthritis. Special foot care is necessary to prevent, treat or manage these problems. Whether you want to take better care of your own aging feet or you have a senior family member, this guide on how to take care of elderly feet will help you. 

What are the Most Common Foot Problems for the Elderly? 

What are the Most Common Foot Problems for the Elderly? 

One of the most common foot problems seniors experience is foot pain. This pain can be mild, acute or chronic. It is usually a symptom of an underlying problem. 

For example, osteoarthritis of the feet is a common problem among the elderly. This type of arthritis causes inflammation and pain. 

Plantar fasciitis is another extremely common issue among the elderly that causes pain. It is caused by an increase in wear and tear that strains ligaments and other structures in the feet. 

Other pain-causing foot problems include achilles tendonitis, bunions, in-grown nails and bone spurs among others. 

Most of these problems occur from years of wear and tear, especially if you were active in sports or other intensive activities. As your feet lose cartilage and other parts weaken, various problems set in. 

Foot problems can also be the result of an underlying health condition. For example, diabetes often accepts the feet, causing issues like nerve damage, ulcers, sores and serious infections. 

Here are other common foot issues in the elderly. 

  • As seniors struggle with body care, foot odor can occur. 
  • Cracks on the heels of the feet are also common. These occur because skin gets drier the older you get. Dry skin is more susceptible to cracking. 
  • Elderly persons will often develop deformities in the feet such as Hallux Valgus (bunions), hammer toe, and claw foot. These can be caused by arthritis, traumatic injuries, or wearing ill-fitting shoes. 
  • Foot swelling, or edema, is another common foot problem in seniors. It happens when fluid builds up in the ankles, feet and legs. It is usually harmless (though it can reduce mobility), but sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying health condition like congestive heart failure. 
  • In-grown nails become more common with age. This is because Seniors may struggle to trim and take care of their nails. Nails also get thicker with age and are more likely to burrow into the skin.

6 Ways To Take Care of Elderly Feet 

Manage or Treat Underlying Conditions 

If you are already experiencing foot problems, such as pain, soreness, or swelling, the first thing is to see a specialist for a diagnosis. 

It’s important to figure out the root cause of the problem. For all you know, it could be a serious health condition that needs urgent intervention. 

There are numerous health conditions that can cause foot problems. They can be foot-related conditions like plantar fasciitis or other body health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis. 

If you already know what the underlying health problem is, make sure you manage it properly. Some problems like bunions are easy to manage or treat on your own. Others like diabetes require working with a doctor. 

Regular Exfoliation 

Exfoliating your feet regularly is a good habit, regardless of age. It reduces the build up of dead skin cells and keeps feet from becoming dry, flaky and cracked. 

Be extra careful when exfoliating an elderly person’s feet as they are more delicate and sensitive. 

First soak feet in warm water. You can add a bit of epsom salt (unless they are diabetic) to help soften the feet. 

After a 10-20 minute soak, dry the feet thoroughly, especially between the toes. Leaving the feet wet can lead to infections. 

Use a pumice stone to gently exfoliate the feet. Rince the feet, dry them, and apply a moisturizer. Repeat this once a week. 

Trim Nails Regularly

The weekly exfoliation is also a great time to trim nails. This prevents ingrown nails, which can be really painful. 

Trimming nails also reduces the risk of fungal infections and keeps nails from getting too long to the point that you cannot wear shoes without pain or discomfort. 

When trimming toenails, cut the nails straight across. Do not round off the edges and do not cut the nails too short. 

If you have a health condition like diabetes or arthritis that makes foot and nail care difficult, a podiatrist can help you with that.  

Here’s a video that shows what can happen if toenails go too long without trimming or care. 

Keep Feet Clean and Dry 

Dirty feet increase the risk of infections. They can also worsen existing infections and make your feet dry and cracked. 

Persistent moistness, either from sweating or poorly dried feet, can also lead to bacterial and fungal infections like athlete’s foot or plantar warts. 

Whenever you take a bath or soak your feet, make sure you completely dry your feet. 

To prevent sweaty feet, wear breathable socks and shoes. If your feet sweat too much, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. You may be suffering from hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. The doctor will recommend the best treatment.   

Keep Feet Moisturized 

Feet, and the skin all over our body, gets drier as we age. That’s because the body produces fewer oils, there’s lower cell turnover, and years of sun damage.

Keeping feet moisturized is very important for seniors. It prevents dryness, flaking and cracks. 

Moisturize your feet everyday. Start by cleaning them with warm water (not necessary if you moisturize right after a bath), dry them completely, then apply lotion, cream or petroleum jelly. 

Do not apply any moisturizer between your toes as these areas need to stay dry to prevent infection. 

Elevate Legs 

Whenever you are seated or lying down, elevate your legs to reduce pressure on them. This will help with pain, soreness and swelling in your feet and legs. 

While seated, place your legs on a low stool or pouf. While in bed, place your legs on a pillow. A wedge pillow is especially ideal for this.  

How To Prevent Foot Problems In Seniors

Prevention is the best way to keep elderly feet healthy and strong. Here are the best ways to prevent the most common foot problems affecting seniors. 

Don’t Ignore Pain

Pain is a signal that something is not right in the body. If you experience occasional or persistent pain in your feet, ankles or legs, do not ignore it. 

It can make an easily treatable condition worse and much harder to treat. See your doctor or a podiatrist as soon as possible. 

Make note of the intensity of the pain, how often it occurs, how long you experience it and when it occurs. This will help the doctor diagnose the problem.  

See A Podiatrist Often

Even if you are not experiencing any pain or other foot problems, it is still a smart idea to visit a podiatrist regularly. 

It’s like going to a dentist; you don’t have to have a toothache to pay them a visit. A podiatrist can help with regular foot care (nail trimming, bunions etc.) and they can spot problems before they become serious. 

Wear Well Fitting & Supportive Shoes

Wearing too-tight shoes is one of the most common causes of foot problems in the elderly. It causes a host of issues including pain, bunions, ingrown nails and so on. 

Take your footwear seriously. Make sure your shoes fit you well without being tight or too loose. To get the best fit, shop for shoes in the afternoon when your feet have swelled up a bit. 

In addition, make sure your shoes offer enough cushioning and support. Consider using orthotics and inserts to make your shoes more comfortable. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time on your feet or on the move.  

Manage Your Weight

Being overweight or obese greatly increases your risk of various foot problems. The extra weights puts a lot of stress on your feet and legs, leading to chronic pain, increased wear and tear, and reduced mobility. 

Managing your weight, with the help of a doctor, can head off many of these problems.  

Stay Active, But Don’t Stress Your Feet 

It may seem counterintuitive, but moving around is good for your feet. 

The trick is not to over-stress your feet. If you feel pain during or after walking or jogging, slow down your pace and make sure you are getting enough rest.

Staying active strengthens your foot muscles and ligaments. This prevents pain and improves balance and stability. 

Being active also helps maintain good blood flow to all your limbs, which keeps your legs healthy and strong. 

It’s important that you choose age-appropriate exercise to avoid injuring yourself. If you are advanced in age, work with a specialist such as a physiotherapist or professional trainer to come up with safe activities. 

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