One secret for a longer, happier life is healthy feet.
Well, it’s no secret, many people are unaware of how important our feet are! But many people don’t believe this is true because it sounds too simple. Our Feet are our foundation, we walk, we stand, we move because of our feet. Taking proper care of our feet is critical and can prevent health problems down the road.
Your feet are meant to be used, because of this, they will require regular maintenance and upkeep. “The average moderately active person takes around 7,500 steps/day. If you maintain that daily average and live until 80 years of age, you’ll have waked about 216,262,500 steps in your lifetime.”
Putting so many miles on your feet is healthy, but age and poor care can wear them down. The Division of Aging and Seniors Public Health Agency of Canada found that three out of four people develop serious foot problems as they age - putting their independence and well-being at risk.
Common Foot Problems As You Age
As you age, stiff joints and muscles may make it more difficult for you to reach your feet. This can pose great difficulty in maintaining healthy feet.
Poor Balance: Your feet are your foundation. Wearing improper footwear or ignoring potential issues can cause your feet to lose strength, change shape, or become painful. With healthy feet you are able to maintain stability and balance which in turn prevents unsteadiness and potential falls.
Cracked Heels: Cracks or compromise in the skin of your feet can lead to potential infections and further problems with your feet. Wearing proper footwear, maintaining a healthy weight, and moisturizing your feet are three ways to prevent cracked heels.
Calluses and corns: Calluses and corns are painful thickenings that form in the skin in areas of pressure. They can cause discomfort, mobility issues, and inability to wear shoes. They can be treated by eliminating the source of friction that is causing them and regular visits to a podiatrist. Consult your doctor if discomfort persists or you experience an inability to wear shoes without pain and discomfort.
Ingrown Toenails: Typically occurs in the big toe, but it can occur in other toes. Symptoms are redness, swelling, pus (yellow drainage that indicates infection) or blood near the edge of a toenail. It is best to consult your doctor if you have an ingrown toenail. Some can be treated in a doctor’s office or by a podiatrist, while others may require surgical intervention.
Athlete’s Foot: This is described as a fungal infection that causes severe and persistent itching, redness, swelling, or pain. Keeping your feet clean, dry, and adequately moisturized are the best ways to prevent Athlete’s Foot.
Even with preventative measures, you can still develop infections or sores on your feet. As soon as you notice any pain or discomfort, make an appointment with your doctor or podiatrist for an evaluation and any necessary treatment.
Additional Health Concerns
Diabetes can cause poor blood circulation and make it difficult for infections to heal. Over time, it can also cause damage to your nerves, which means you may not feel discomfort or pain in your feet.
It’s important to assess your foot health daily. The most optimal time to assess your feet is before or after bathing. If you cannot easily see or reach your feet, use a mirror or ask a caregiver or loved one for assistance.
Arthritis is a disease that affects the joints. Arthritis in your feet can cause a myriad of issues including stiffness and swelling, which can make walking difficult. Your doctor will be able to recommend stretching exercises to increase your flexibility. Registered massage therapy for your feet can also help provide relief from stiffness and swelling.
Effects of Poor Foot Care on Seniors
Even when a senior, or a person of any age, is taking great care of themselves overall, foot care is often an area that is neglected.
Negligence of a foot care routine is dangerous as it can lead to issues with balance, coordination, and walking. All of these factors add up to increase risk of falling, and can significantly reduce quality of life.
Foot Care Best Practices
Check Your Feet Everyday and Be Proactive - if you notice anything unusual or painful with your feet, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to maintain your foot health and overall health.
Things that you should be looking out for:
Changes in how your foot is shaped (i.e. toe placement, arch height, etc.).
Changes in foot sensation (i.e. tingling, numbness, pain, etc.)
Changes in colour or any rashes that form.
Any pain or discomfort while you’re walking
Any sores, calluses or blisters that continue to get worse or never heal
Foot Hygiene - keep your feet clean! Unclean feet can lead to infection and fungal growths.
Clean your feet and between your toes daily with soap, then dry well with a clean towel. Do not leave your feet damp, as this can cause bacteria to grow. Using moisturizer on your feet is a good idea, but do not put it between your toes. Always clean your toenails when you clean your feet to remove any dirt and monitor any changes in toenail health.
Podiatrists and Chiropodists - Seeing a foot specialist can provide you with insight into what bones are under stress and if any areas of your skin are sensitive. A Podiatrist or Chiropodist can give you footwear recommendations, as well as foot exercises and stretches to maintain better foot health.
Wear Proper Footwear - Heels are not the only footwear that can cause problems for your feet. Many shoes are not the correct shape to allow your feet to move and expand naturally while you walk, which can damage the skeletal structure of your feet.
Check Your Nails - There is an increased blood flow through your feet, which means your toenails typically grow faster than your fingernails. Check them regularly and keep them trimmed straight across. If you notice any pain or symptoms of an ingrown toenail, go to the doctor right away for a diagnosis.
Exercise Your Feet - Walking is exercise for your feet, but there are other exercises you can do to increase circulation, prevent cramps and keep your muscles in good shape:
Foot Care Specialists
Proper foot care is separate from getting a pedicure. While a pedicure feels nice, and it does involve cleaning the feet, softening the skin, and filing the nails, it does not address any underlying issues that could fester and can lead to more serious health concerns.
Licensed Mavencare caregivers, expert chiropodists, and certified foot care nurses are able to provide foot care as a supplement to personal care. The person you hire for your foot care needs to be highly educated and specially trained.
Foot care is often something you don’t think about until you’re in pain or discomfort, but it's important to be proactive and prevent any issues with your feet by sticking to regular foot care regime!
The healthier you keep your feet, the longer they will be able to support your healthy and active lifestyle.
If you have any questions about certified foot care, call one of our care coordinators today at 1-800-85-MAVEN.