Many seniors suffer with recurring foot pain; however, caregivers can help alleviate their patients’ discomfort. Furthermore, many times the early signs of a systemic condition appear in the feet; therefore, home health care providers can also examine a patient’s foot to attain insight into his or her health. These systemic conditions include circulatory problems, diabetes and arthritis. Signs caregivers can look for include brittle nails, dry skin, discoloration and loss of leg hair. CNAs should also ask their patients if they are experiencing any cramping, numbness and/or tingling in their feet.
Foot Disorders Can Reduce a Senior’s Mobility Even More
The American Podiatric Medical Association states that by the time an American reaches the age of 50, on average, he or she has already walked a total of 75,000 miles. This fact sheds some light on the reason seniors frequently suffer with foot disorders that lead to pain. According to Foot.com, foot disorders are usually painful and reduce a senior’s mobility: Elderly patients who have foot disorders are more likely to need additional assistance from their caregivers. However, home care providers can assist their patients by examining and tending to their feet on a regular basis.
How Caregivers Can Assist Patients Through Regular Foot Care
Individuals who have senior care training know that proper foot care is especially important for individuals who have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or any other health issue that causes poor circulation in the feet: The information below is meant to assist caregivers in examining and caring for their elderly patients’ feet.
Examine the Bottom of the Patient’s Feet
Foot.com states that of the 16 million Americans who have diabetes, 25 percent will develop foot problems; therefore, home health aides need to keep a close eye on the bottom of their elderly diabetic patients’ feet. Cuts, splinters, cracks, calluses, blisters and pressure sores should show signs of healing within 24 hours, if they do not, caregivers should contact the patient’s physician.
Check the Patient’s Socks
Socks should be seamless and not too tight: A binding top can inhibit blood flow to the feet.
Encourage patients to avoid wearing 100 percent cotton socks as this material does not wick moisture away; however, an acrylic blend sock will.
Avoiding an ingrown toenail is important for any senior; however, for an individual with a circulation issue, an ingrown toenail could lead to amputation. For this reason, home health care providers need to pay close attention to a senior patient’s toenails. After cutting a patient’s toenails, caregivers need to file the toenails straight across and then round out the edges.
Examine His or Her Shoes
According to Health in Aging, three out of four people who are older than 65 wear shoes that are too small. Since ill-fitting shoes are a major cause of foot pain, CNAs need to make sure that the shoes their patients are wearing fit properly.
Encourage Patients to Protect Their Feet by Wearing Socks and Shoes at All Times
Elderly patients who have poor circulation in their feet are more likely to unknowingly sustain an injury, which can lead to an infection and if not properly cared for, amputation. Wearing moisture wicking socks and closed toe shoes can protect a patient’s foot from injury. For this reason, caregivers should encourage their patients to wear moisture wicking socks, and slippers or shoes that have a closed toe whenever they are awake.
Apply Moisturizing Lotion
Obviously, lotion can be used to moisturize the skin of the feet. Caregivers can use the moisturizer on the top and bottom of the feet; however, keep in mind that moisturizer should not be used between the toes.
Pedicures and Medical Pedicures
While a home health care provider can easily provide a patient with the standard pedicure, if the patient has diabetes, poor circulation and/or numbness a medical pedicure with a podiatrist several times a year may be beneficial.
Foot spas/baths can help tense muscles in the feet relax. A foot bath also soothes dry skin and painful bunions. Regular foot baths can prevent some foot disorders because many of them occur due to muscle tension.
Teach Patients How to Properly Stretch Their Feet
CNAs should encourage elderly patients to stretch their feet on a daily basis. Since a foot spa treatment loosens tense muscles, a great time to have a patient stretch his or her feet is directly following a foot spa/bath treatment. Stretching also reduces muscle tension and addresses knot formations before these knots actually become painful. After speaking with their patient’s physician and receiving approval, caregivers should teach their patient how to perform stretches like the plantar fascia stretch.
Address Foot Odor
It is possible to reduce the build-up of odor-causing bacteria. Caregivers should wash their patient’s feet at least twice daily; additionally, antibacterial foot sprays may be helpful.
Patients Need to Know How to Keep Blood Flowing to Their Feet
Inform patients that crossing their legs for an extended length of time inhibits blood flow to their feet.
Set alarms throughout the day to remind patients to wiggle their toes and move their ankles up and down, in, and out (5 minutes, two or three times a day).
Whenever possible, have the patient elevate his or her feet.
Caregivers Should Inform their Patients About the Dangers of Using Artificial Heat
Senior Patients with poor circulation need to be aware that heating pads and hot water bottles can cause burns on their feet. Let them know that if their feet are cold they need to wear seamless socks to bed.
Caregivers who take the time to check their patients’ feet regularly may be able to help them by recognizing an injury before it becomes infected; thus, eliminating concerns related to infection and amputation.