Watching our parents gradually lose their mobility and confidence on their feet can be extremely difficult. It leaves many seeking options
for what they can be doing to best support their parents' foot health, so their parents can stay independent and do the things they love on
their feet for as long as possible. Plus, being able to maintain movement and avoid being sedentary for prolonged periods also has notable
health benefits, from reducing the risk of developing a range of conditions such as heart disease to lowering the risk of early
The reality is that ageing brings with it a wide range of challenges: being able to reach the feet becomes more difficult, vision that we rely on to detect changes in our feet and legs deteriorates, muscle strength and endurance reduce, and the prevalence of various conditions ranging from arthritis to diabetes are at an all-time high. So what should we know, and how can we best support our parents at this time?
With age, our circulation naturally worsens. This means that when we injure our feet through a cut, sore, blister or the like, there may be a delay in healing, and we remain at a higher risk of infection, which can quickly turn serious. As it can get harder to reach and see the feet in our older years, especially on the soles of the feet, doing a quick foot check can be invaluable for your parents in terms of helping detect and address any issues early instead of leaving problems lingering and worsening over many weeks. Look for:
If you detect one or more of these signs, it’s a good idea to book your parents in with a podiatrist who can take appropriate, timely action to support your parents long-term foot health and wellbeing.
Trimming nails can quickly become a challenging task for older adults, as it requires bending down to reach the toes, fine motor skills, and notable hand and wrist strength, particularly if their toenails have grown thicker as they often do. Here, you want to trim their nails straight across (this helps reduce the likelihood of an ingrown toenail) using high-grade nail cutting tools, and then use a gentle emery board to smooth the edges. Avoid cutting too close to the skin to prevent injuries. If you have trouble or need a hand, your podiatrist can help.
Aging can cause the skin to become dry, which can reduce the sensation around the feet and make the skin more susceptible to cracking, particularly if there’s a build up of callus. Apply a good-quality foot moisturiser or lotion to keep their skin soft and supple. Be careful to avoid putting lotion between the toes, as excessive moisture in that area can lead to more fragile skin and increases the likelihood of fungal infections.
The right footwear is crucial for foot health as your shoes can literally support your foot health and stability, or actively work against it and lead to injury or pain. Encourage your parents to wear comfortable shoes that provide proper support and fit well. If you can see that their shoes aren’t up to the job, and you’re in a position to do so, take them shoe shopping. It's important to ensure their shoes have non-slip soles to help prevent falls. Velcro can also make it easier for them to put on and take off without struggling with laces. Consider whether orthopedic slippers around the house can also benefit your parents - they often do for most. If you’re unsure about the best type of shoes for your parents given their unique circumstances and foot conditions, see your podiatrist.
A gentle foot massage can promote blood circulation to the feet, which is very important for foot health. Complete the massage while keeping their feet elevated, which can help reduce any swelling in the feet while supporting their circulation. Evaluate how easy it is for your parents to be able to pop their feet up on their own, and consider how you can help here too - such as by purchasing a foot rest or getting pillows for their existing foot stool to best support the elevation. Encourage them to keep their feet up when they’re resting or watching television.
Either observe or talk to your parents about what aspects of foot care they may be struggling with, and consider if there are tools available that can help. Often it can be quite simple - such as a shoe horn or a long-handled bath brush or a foot brush.
Staying physically active, even within the limitations of age, is crucial for overall health, including foot health. Plan to go for gentle walks or outings with your parents, and depending on their level of mobility, participate in low-impact exercises together such as yoga. Even stretching together can be greatly beneficial. These activities can help maintain mobility and support muscle strength in their feet and lower limbs.
Regular visits to a podiatrist are incredibly valuable in not only providing foot care and treatment, but also for early detection for many
foot problems that can go unnoticed and can otherwise lead to significant pain or distress. Your podiatrist can offer a wide range of
services - from falls prevention services to reducing arthritic pain to nail care - and much more. If your parent has diabetes or
circulation issues, these visits become even more important, as diabetes carries a wide range of risks - including diabetic foot ulcers
which is the leading cause of preventable lower limb amputations worldwide. You can learn more about the importance
of caring for feet with diabetes here.
Here at The Feet People, we put great emphasis on foot and leg care, as well as optimising mobility, for older adults. That’s why we
offer this wide range of services that go well above the ‘norm’. One of the areas that sets us apart is our work with falls
prevention in older adults,
with podiatrist intervention being proven to reduce the rate of elderly falls by 36%.
Here, we use a validated falls screening test throughout a patient's journey with us to understand what their initial probability of a fall
is and then work towards improving that by the intervention and quarterly assessments.
We’d love for you to join us for your parents appointment too - that way we can explain exactly what we’re seeing, any risks we’ve identified, and provide you with personalised advice on how you can continue to best support your parents in maintaining their foot health at home and the warning signs to look out for.
Book your appointment with our podiatry team online here or call us on 1300 993 338.