From the time we are young until our life journey ends, our feet carry us each and every day, wherever we go. Taking good care of our feet is essential in order to have healthy feet when we reach our elder years. Here are some practical ideas to assist you or to help your loved ones care for their feet.
Having supportive, well-fitting shoes is essential to foot health. Shoes should be the appropriate width and length to provide “wiggle room” for toes and to allow your foot to fit flat within the bed of the shoe. There should be enough room in the length for the great toe (the big toe or the second toe if it is longer) to extend comfortably and not feel cramped at the end of the shoe. If possible, have your feet sized and fitted for footwear at a specialty shoe store where the staff are trained to fit your foot to a shoe that is best suited for you, rather than a department store.
Although pointed shoes are fashionable they may not be practical, especially as our feet age and don’t fit so comfortably in a narrow space. If you find it necessary to wear fashionable shoes to special events such as weddings, be sure to take a more comfortable walking shoe to change into after the service—your feet will thank you for changing shoes early in the event. For walking or running, shoes should be lace-up and have an excellent cushion sole and body of the shoe. Velcro shoes are handy, but do not offer the same stability as a lace-up shoe.
Support in footwear is equally as important as the fit. Much cushion-soled footwear, arch supports and other more specialized orthotics can be fitted specifically for you or your loved one to correct issues such as flat feet, high arches or other presentations of the foot that need indicate special support. These products can be bought at a specialty store and may be recommended by someone trained in the care of feet (a podiatrist or chiropodist).
The soles of footwear are also important to ensure proper care of your feet. Soles should be waterproof and non-skid, especially for the elderly, to ensure feet stay dry when outdoors and reduce the chance of falls.
Caring for your feet and nails
Our feet and nails need to be cared for just as any other part of our body needs care. When we bathe or take a shower it is essential that our feet get a good scrub. This not only removes dirt and dead skin, but also increases circulation to the feet. There are many products on the market to help with the care of your feet when in the bath, including pumice stones for rough heels and foot scrubs to invigorate the feet and slough off dry or rough skin. Applying a foot cream or another lotion after a bath can keep feet soft and supple, but be sure to put on socks or well-fitting slippers after the cream to prevent slips and falls.
Nail care is an area that sometimes gets neglected. As our loved ones age it becomes harder for them to reach their feet and they may need a little help and support. A family member can help, or there are many excellent foot-care nurses who can come to the house or long-term care home if needed to do monthly care of the feet. The service for foot care usually starts at about $25.00 per visit, and may be slightly more depending on where you or your loved one lives and the time required for the care. These foot-care specialists are well trained in the care of the feet and also can provide guidance if there are more serious difficulties.
Cleaning and cutting the nails is best done immediately following a bath, shower or foot soak. The nails are far easier to cut when the feet are soft and supple. Make sure the feet are dry, especially between the toes and the soles of the feet, before beginning nail care.
Toenails get stubborn as they get older and can sometimes be tough to cut. Use a clipper designed for toenails—these are usually a little larger and stronger than fingernail clippers and are designed for just this purpose. It is important to keep the nails trimmed short and straight across. Cutting nails into the corners or “rounded” can lead to ingrown toenails, which can be quite painful. Ideally, the nails should be cut and cared for once or twice a month, depending on how fast they grow. In long-term care homes in Ontario a foot-care nurse usually visits once per week; an appointment may be necessary due to the number of people he or she will need to see.
If there any difficulties with the feet, it is best to wear cotton socks. If an infection is present then white socks are recommended, as these are free from dyes that might otherwise enter the open areas of the foot. This is especially true for those with diabetes, who may have ulcers on their feet due to poor circulation (diabetic feet require special care—ask your physician or nurse how to look after them properly).
Be kind to your feet
In closing, be kind to your feet. They are carrying you around and should not be neglected! If you need help finding a foot-care nurse or foot specialist, check with your family physician or with a nursing agency in your area. Many agencies have foot-care nurses on staff who can come right to your or your loved one’s home to help with care of the feet. Healthy feet are happy feet!