Making Steps in the Right Direction

One of the highlights of the many varied activities that we have in our Assisted Living community has nothing to do with entertainment.  It does have everything to do with health and prevention.  When it comes to taking care of our feet, it is no small matter.  Yet many seniors lose the ability to safely trim their toenails or inspect their feet for other issues.  That is why the periodic visits from a podiatrist keep our residents feeling one step ahead!  Since the feet are closely tied to our overall health…here are some simple tips excerpted from GREAT FEET FOR LIFE: FOOTCARE AND FOOTWEAR FOR HEALTHY AGING by Paul Langer, DPM to keep your feet headed in the right direction.

loofahs-jpg-838x0_q67_crop-smartFoot Hygiene   The single most important thing one can do for foot health is good foot hygiene. This means washing the feet daily, wearing clean socks and caring for the skin and nails on a regular basis.

Skin Care  The skin of the feet must be resilient enough to withstand thousands of footsteps each day. Bathing the feet daily, applying moisturizing lotions to dry skin and managing calluses with lotions and a pumice stone helps our skin hold up to the demands of an active lifestyle. Never ignore rashes, painful calluses or skin that is red or tender as this can be a sign of infection. For those whose feet sweat excessively, foot powders and socks with less than 30% cotton are best for keeping the skin dry.

ca5c5fa4-12a5-404b-86bc-05c404b1a623Nail Care  Toenails tend to become thicker, discolored and more brittle as we age. This can make it more difficult to trim the nails and contribute to painful nail conditions such as ingrown nails or fungal nails. Nails should be trimmed straight across and rough edges or nail thickness should be reduced with a nail file.

Footwear   For those who are vulnerable to foot pain whether from arthritis, previous injuries or toe alignment issues such as bunions or hammertoes, it is imperative that you wear shoes that fit well, provide proper support and are not excessively worn. Poorly fitting shoes contribute to many of the most common causes of foot pain. Take the time to visit a reputable footwear retailer and spend the time necessary selecting a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes.fuzzy-socks

Falling Risk and Your Feet  Risk factors for falls include: poorly fitting shoes, shoes with elevated heel height, excessively worn shoes, sandals or shoes with an unsecured heel.

April is Foot Health Awareness Month.  So step up and make good choices for your foot health!  It will help keep you feeling footloose and fancy free!

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If the Shoe Fits

As I continue my discussion about falls, I thought I might provide a little comic relief to share my most embarrassing fall.  Picture this.  It’s my little girl’s dance recital dress rehearsal.  Mamas, Grandmas, and some Dads are all up in arms trying to make sure they have their little Susie’s right shoes with the right costume and heaven knows we must have on ENOUGH makeup to be “stage appropriate” too.  Well amongst all this chaos we had a routine (or at least a performer) that was about to be cut because one of our senior level dancers was sick and was not able to partner with the junior performer for this cute little number.  Well as they say “the show must go on” and our ever improvising and quick thinking director called out from the curtain…” Is Heather Bradley in the building”?  SAY WHAT??  Oh dear woman, you do jest.  Nope, she was quite serious.  And within moments this child with big crocodile tears that was about to have to sit out was being twirled and tossed by yours truly.  So I fell on my face on the stage during the routine right?  No…wait for it.  We got through the routine and I was feeling pretty good for a washed up former tap dancer.  So as I slipped back into my wedges and started bounding down the stairs…it happened.  I fell down the steps with such graceless effort that I literally fell flat on my face.  Well, I fell on my hands to be more specific.  My friend Renee said I jumped back up so quickly though that I looked like a cartoon character.  So as I jump up to quickly assure everyone that I am truly okay, I make a discovery.  My shoe is broken, my watch is broken and I soon discover at the ER (where my friend Sam insisted I get checked out when she sees blood coming from my wrist) that my hand is also quite broken.  So when I speak to you about falls, trust me I am a professional.  It takes a pro to fall off a stage in front of an auditorium packed full of people.

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So the shoe.  Let me tell you it was the source of the fall.  So when I tell you that ill-fitting shoes can be a hazard, I know from first-hand experience.  Now granted most elderly adults are not bounding down the steps of a stage.  But if your shoes don’t fit properly you can be stepping off a curb or standing up for that matter and the shoes can become a fall hazard.  Another important thing to consider is foot care.  Many seniors don’t have the ability to trim their toenails anymore.  Throw in the fact that many are diabetic and this adds additional risk and you can see how toenails can wreak havoc and up the ante in the fight against falls.  Foot pain and poor footwear have been cited by the Center for Disease Control as one of the major contributing factors for falls in the elderly.  So be sure that you check your loved ones’ shoes and make sure that they fit well and are in good condition.  Also, check their toenails and see that they are trimmed regularly by someone that knows what they are doing and especially if they are diabetic.  Regular checkups are important, right?  It is equally important to get your feet checked out too!

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Be an advocate if Mom’s feet have been missed in the examination.  Most physicians include this in a comprehensive check.  But believe me, I have seen it be missed.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and make sure that foot health is a consideration.  While my middle aged broken hand healed up nicely after my fall, a fall for a senior can be much more devastating because as we age we become more frail.  Taking proper precautions can help your loved one from being one of the 2.8 million older Americans that is treated in the ER annually for falls.  So be smart and evaluate these issues and it will help everyone keep one foot safely in front of the other.