I like to think of us all as a fine wine: we just get better and better with age! But, unlike wine, there can be a few bumps and hurdles as we move along. For those who are now caregivers for an aging friend or relative, we want to be sure we are as attentive to their needs as possible. Although, many of us aren’t always sure how to know if something is a minor ailment or needs to be addressed immediately. This month we’ll dive into a few tips you can follow to assess your loved one’s foot and ankle health in order to catch something before it gets out of hand.
How is Their Circulation?
Chronic foot pain is a common complaint as we age. This can range from shortening of the Achilles tendon to flattening of the arch. To make sure there aren’t underlying circulation problems at play you can try a few simple tests.
- Press gently on some of the capillaries and veins along their feet. Typically, they will return to their normal color within a few seconds. However, if it takes longer than 3 to 5 seconds, this could be a sign they are suffering from poor circulation.
- Take a look at the condition of the skin on their feet. How is the color and temperature? If you notice it changing since the last time you checked or the skin is very dry, this could also be a sign of poor circulation.
A large percentage of the U.S. population suffers from diabetes and the chance of it affecting you increase as you age. Neuropathy can manifest as hyper-sensitivity, numbness or ulceration.
This goes hand in hand with the capillary test mentioned above. Gently press along different areas of your loved ones’ feet and see if they experience any abnormal sensitivity or lack of feeling. This can indicate the beginning stages of neuropathy. A healthcare professional has special tools to allow for a more precise measurement. So, if you suspect neuropathy, you should schedule an appointment right away.
Changing Foot Geometry
Bunions, hammertoes and other prominent bone structures will cause a great deal of discomfort. If left unchecked or proper footwear isn’t implemented, they can cause ulcerations on the feet, changes in gait that will affect the hips and lower back and even increase the chance of balance problems.
- Consistent visual inspection of your loved one’s feet will allow you to note any changes in their foot geometry. Is their bunion growing? Is their shoe causing callousing or sores due to excessive rubbing?
- You can also check their shoes for the wear pattern on the insole. If they are beginning to wear the outside edge of one side of their shoe over the other, this can indicate discomfort and lead to the other issues I mentioned above.
These tests and checks are all preliminary. Only a medical professional can truly identify and diagnose potential health hazards with your loved ones, but these tips can provide a way to help identify the early stages of common foot and ankle ailments before they begin severely impacting your love one’s life or cause further problems down the road.