You’ve heard the expression, “watch your back.” When it comes to older adults, you might say “watch your feet.” Caring for an older adult means checking vision, gait, hearing and balance on a regular basis. It also should mean checking feet. Feet are a window into whether an older adult is able to care for himself or herself.
When it comes to feet, older people have lots of issues. Your primary care doctor or geriatrician should be sure to check your feet regularly. Here are seven things to watch out for and talk to your doctor about:
- Foot pain: People are more likely to have foot pain in later life as the skin becomes thinner and less elastic. Painful feet can usually be treated.
- Fungal infections between the toes causing redness, blisters or itching: Use an over-the- counter fungal spray or cream. And, talk to your doctor. Make sure your feet, including the area between the toes, are dry to prevent infections.
- Corns and calluses: Make sure your shoes fit well, and your feet are not rubbing up against them. Use a pumice stone or foot file to remove hard or calloused skin. You also can rub the corns or calluses gently with a washcloth but do not shave them. Moisturize dry and rough skin on your feet to prevent cracks.
- Ingrown toenails: Cut toenails regularly to avoid ingrown toenails caused by the nail growing too long and cutting into the skin. Keep in mind that many older adults can’t bend down to cut their own toenails.
- Tissue build up in the ball of the foot or toes causing pain. This could make it harder to balance. Make sure your shoes are wide enough.
- Toes that are pulled back: This can affect balance. Make sure shoes have enough space in them.
- Swelling. See a doctor if your feet are swollen.
If you have diabetes, you may have poor blood flow in your feet. And, you are more prone to scrapes, bruises and infections. You should check your feet every day for red patches. If you have sores or blisters or cracks in your skin, see a foot doctor. You want to avoid getting infections.
And, regardless of your health status, exercise your feet to increase blood flow and improve the health of your feet. You can also do foot exercises. For more information, check out this pamphlet from the National Institute on Aging.