Sunday, January 15, 2006

foot care

Foot care is of utmost importance in older individuals because of the need for ambulation and mobility. Circulation to the lower portions of the body tends to decrease with age. Decreased circulation, coupled with diminished sensation, can lead to skin breakdown and infections. Older individuals are less agile and may experience difficulty in maintaining good hygiene of the feet. These individuals may experience shortness of breath or dizziness while bending over or may be unable to reach their feet due to arthritic changes or muscular weakness. Diabetics may have more difficulty with their feet.
It is extremely important to keep the feet thoroughly dry to prevent cracking, which can lead to ulceration and infection. If physical disabilities prevent proper drying, the use of a hair dryer held 15-18 inches away from the foot may be a good alternative. Toenails should be clipped. Long jagged nail edges may lead to a laceration that can lead to infection. If the person is unable to clip his or her toenails, a family member or friend can do it. Soaking feet 15 minutes once a day for four days prior to clipping will help soften the toenail and cut down on the chance of injury. In addition, cutting the nail straight across rather than curving the nail will reduce the incidence of the nail embedding in the adjacent tissue.
People should also be instructed to inspect their feet, toes, and between their toes daily. The use of a mirror can aid in seeing the bottom of the feet. It is also important to wash the feet daily and avoid extremes of temperature; inspect the shoes daily for foreign objects, nails, and tom linings; wear properly fitted footwear, not to go barefooted; and to have the feet examined at each doctor's visit.
The ability of an individual to remain ambulatory may be the only dividing line between institutionalization and remaining an active and viable member of society. Therefore, good foot care is essential in remaining independent.
Gillies, J. A Guide to Caring for and Coping with Aging Parents. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981.

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