Thursday, July 24, 2014

Boomers: Caring for your feet as you age by Terrie Todd

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 percent of respondents aged 65 or older reported foot pain and problems, yet only 39 percent of them had sought medical advice and only 26 percent 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.

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 that feet remain dry helps to fight off fungal infections, 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 by walking, and wearing appropriate shoes, promote foot health and prevent conditions such as plantar fasciitis, which can cause debilitating heel pain.

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 maintained.

Family caregivers should ensure that 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.

Courtesy of  The Las Cruces Sun-News