The Benefits of Healthy Feet in the Elderly

Staying Active.  Foot problems quickly reduce mobility.  If it’s painful to walk then an elderly person will walk less.  This reduces independence, limits exercise and risks the development of deep-vein thrombosis. 

Balance.  Healthy feet improve balance in the elderly, thereby reducing the risk of falls. 

Early Warning Signs.  Feet can actually help alert you to health problems at an early stage.  Problems such as diabetes, arthritis, poor blood circulation and nerve damage can all have a noticeable effect on the feet or toenails.

How to Keep Feet Healthy

Getting into good habits and routines in relation to foot care will help keep your elderly parent’s feet in great shape, meaning their quality of life as a whole is maintained and even improved. 

Check Feet Regularly.  At least twice a week and ideally more often make sure you or your parent checks their feet to prevent problems becoming established.  Look for redness, bruises, sores, swelling, cuts, blisters and ingrown or infected toenails.  You could buy a long-handled mirror to help your parent check for themselves if bending poses difficulties. 

Wash Feet Daily.  Regular washing helps avoid infections and soreness, but make sure the feet aren’t soaking for longer than 10 minutes because this can cause the skin to dry and crack.  When drying feet be sure to pat rather than rub and take care to dry properly between the toes.  Talcum powder is helpful, especially if the feet are prone to sweatiness. 

Use Appropriate Lotions.  Plenty of creams and moisturisers are available to help keep feet healthy, especially if they are cracked and callused.  Make sure this is properly rubbed in and surplus doesn’t remain. 

Wear the Right Shoes.  So many foot problems are caused by ill-fitting shoes, especially for women.  Various brands are designed with the elderly in mind, providing comfort, grip and support. 

Socks Too!  Just like shoes, badly fitting socks can cause problems.  It’s best to avoid socks with elasticated tops as these can be irritating and restrict circulation.  White socks will also make it easier to spot any blood or discharges.

The area which needs the most careful attention, however, is toenails, so we devote the rest of the article to this!

Caring for an Elderly Person’s Toenails

Toenail problems can be extremely debilitating and as with so many things, prevention is always better than cure.

According to Age Concern around one in three people over 65 cannot cut their own toenails.  This means over two million people are potentially at risk from a number of problems. 

Ingrown Toenails.  This occurs when the toenail curves downward and grows into the skin, usually at the side of the nail.  This can cause swelling and pain.  If the skin is broken this can then produce infection and problems are likely to be much more serious if the person has circulatory problems or diabetes. 

Fungal Infections.  In the early stages there may be no discomfort, with only a thickening or discolouration of the nail, which can turn yellow/green.  If fungal infections become established then the nail can fragment and even fall off.  Walking can become difficult because of the pain. 

Thickened Toenails.  This is known as onychogryphosis and is usually caused by a heavy object hitting the nail or through gradual damage over time.  This can once again be painful, making walking a challenge. 

 And here are 25 Fun foot facts:-

  1. A human foot & ankle is a strong mechanical structure that contains 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.

  2. The 52 bones in your feet make up one quarter of all the bones in your body. When they are out of alignment, so is the rest of your body.

  3. There are approximately 250,000 sweat glands and sensory nerve endings in a pair of feet, and they excrete as much as a pint of moisture each day.

  4. The soles of your feet contain more sweat glands and sensory nerve endings per square centimetre than any other part of the body.

  5. Buying shoes is best done during the afternoon. Your feet tend to swell a little during the day, and it’s best to buy shoes that fit then.

  6. Women are 4 times more likely to have foot problems than men are, mostly due to footwear.

  7. A 2⅟2 inch high heal can increase the load on the other foot by 75%.

  8. Many people have one foot larger than the other, so it’s best to fit the larger one standing.

  9. It is said the average person takes 8000 to 10000 steps a day, which add up to 115,000 miles in a lifetime-more than 4 times the circumference of the globe.

  10. During an average day of walking, the total forces on your feet can total hundreds of tons, uquivalent to an average of a fully loaded cement truck.

  11. Walking is the best exercise for your feet. It contributes to your general health by improving circulation and weight control.

  12. Standing in one spot is far more tiring than walking because the demands are being made on the same few muscles for a longer period of time.

  13. Foot ailments can become your first sign of more serious medical problems. Your feet mirror your general health, so conditions like arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in your feet.

  14. Arthritis is the number one cause of disability, including your feet.

  15. Podiatric physicians are 4 times less likely to use costly services than other physicians.

  16. 75% of population will experience foot problems at one time or another in their lives.

  17. About 19% of the population has an average of 1.4-foot problems each year.

  18. About 5% of the population has fungal foot infections each year.

  19. About 5% of the population has ingrown toenail problems each year.

  20. About 5% of the population has corns or calluseseach year. They are less likely to receive treatment and more likely to continue having problems without treatment.

  21. About 6% of the population has foot injuries, bunions, flat feet or fallen arches each year.

  22. About 60% of all foot and ankle injuries aged 17 or older are ankle strains or sprains.

  23. About 60%-70% of diabetes will develop some form of diabetic nerve damage, which in servere forms can lead to diabetic lower limb amputation. Approximately 56,000 people a year lose their foot or leg due to diabetes.

  24. Heel pain and ingrown toenails are the most common problems researched.

  25. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is a very common reason for feeling pain and burning in their feet.

Reflexology Diagram of your feet

My thanks to Sharon Byatt for the above very interesting article. Sharon is a qualified Foot Health Practitioner presently with her own clinic in Hagley Road West at the Hollybush Shopping Complex. She is a lovely lady, very approachable and easy to talk to. Her charges are not excessive and if you were not able to visit the clinic she does give a mobile at home service. If you are interested in giving Sharon a try then please contact one of the two telephone numbers below.

0121 422 8225 or 07787 521459

Click here to go back to the Oracle page.