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Approximately 87 percent of older adults have at least one foot problem, according to data from the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH).
“Wiggle Your Toes Day” -- celebrated on August 6th -- offers an important reminder to check in with aging loved ones about their foot health.
While your parents may not be donning flip-flops anytime soon, they can take simple steps to happier, healthier feet.
Encouraging daily hygiene is a simple yet important way to promote your aging loved one's foot health. Wash and thoroughly dry feet daily, including between the toes, as dampness can lead to infections. Clean, dry footwear is also essential; rotate shoes regularly and seek out pairs with removable insoles, which can be dried overnight.
When it comes to senior foot health, minor problems can turn into major issues if left untreated. In fact, small cuts and other foot injuries can grow into foot ulcers without proper care. Your aging loved one may have less circulation and sensation in his/her feet, so visual inspections are particularly important. Loved ones with vision problems or flexibility issues may require help with this task.
Insufficient or improper nail trimming can lead to painful ingrown toenails as well as infections. Cut toenails straight across to prevent angled corners from penetrating the skin, and file away all sharp edges. Also, look for indications of fungal infections, such as thick or discolored toenails. If an ingrown toenail or discoloration does occur, schedule an appointment with your loved one’s physician.
Seniors with diabetes must be particularly careful when it comes to foot care. In addition to following the practices above, routine inspections by a physician, particularly a podiatrist, are an important part of ongoing foot health. Seniors with diabetes should also invest in well-fitting orthopedic shoes and avoid going barefoot to minimize the risk of injury.
Encourage your aging loved one to wear shoes that offer protection and support, such as orthopedic walking shoes. Avoid high heels, tight shoes, and footwear without arch support, all of which cannot only be uncomfortable, but also unhealthy. And remember: feet grow wider and flatter over time, so regularly have your parents' feet measured to ensure the best fit.
Encourage your aging loved ones to keep blood flowing in their feet by incorporating regular walking, stretching and exercise into their daily routine -- particularly if they spend a great deal of time sitting. Also encourage seniors to put their feet up when sitting to increase circulation. Gentle foot massages are also helpful and feel great too. Tight socks, crossed legs and smoking can also lead to decreased circulation and compromised foot health.
Because foot problems can be early signs of serious medical conditions for older adults, vigilance is a necessity! See a podiatrist with your loved one or visit a foot clinic, which is sometimes offered to community members in local senior centers or other locations. Promote healthy feet and an ongoing active lifestyle for your aging loved one through these prevention and maintenance measures.
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
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