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Helping Elderly Patients Take Care of Their Feet

While people of all ages should be aware of potential foot problems, it is especially true for the aging and elderly populations. Medical conditions and physical limitations that develop slowly as we age may prevent people from being able to monitor their foot health. This can be due to poor eyesight, and not being able to see developing situations. Neuropathy can reduce feeling in the feet, and can hide a variety of potentially life-threatening medical conditions. Reduced flexibility may prevent proper toenail trimming and foot cleansing, and may lead to some of the following medical problems.

Foot sores are common among the older population, and may become quite serious before they are discovered. These may be due to toenails that have been gouging into a nearby toe, shoes that do not fit well, pressure sores, loss of circulation in the legs and feet, edema and swelling of the feet and ankles, or injuries that have gone unnoticed. Insect or pet bites can also become inflamed and infected. Stepping on something sharp and sustaining a cut on the bottom of the foot can be hard to notice, until either pain or swelling indicates a medical problem.

Conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, various neurological diseases and general loss of sensitivity over the years can turn a simple cut or injury into a potential cause for hospitalization. Feet are especially susceptible to infection due to contact with surfaces that are filled with bacteria, such as shoes, rugs, floors, and moist environments such as spas, pools and bathrooms. Moist areas also contribute to foot funguses and other skin diseases.

Additionally, foot problems can affect balance, and episodes of falling may be due to problems with the feet or footwear. The ability to drive may be affected, as painful or numb feet may slow reaction time in an emergency. Problem feet can reduce the ability to feel the brake or accelerator.

If a person knows they are no longer able to cleanse, examine or maintain healthy feet without help, it is time to make an appointment with a podiatrist. The podiatrist may recommend personal aids that can enable an older person to better care for their feet at home. More importantly, a foot specialist can identify problems and conditions to increase patient awareness of certain issues, and help patients fix their problems. They can also instruct patients on the use of different products and techniques to improve foot health. If special shoes, socks or inserts are indicated as needed, this can be addressed.