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6 Steps to Proper Foot Care for Senior Citizens as a Caregiver

The older you get the harder it becomes to take care of your feet. Vision and mobility decline. Your skin becomes thinner, but toenails often thicken. Diabetic patients may even loose feeling in their feet which eliminates pain as an early warning symptom for infection and injury.

The best foundation for proper toenail care for senior citizens as a caregiver is an environment of trust. Your Senior, whether she/he is a family member or not, will eventually have to admit they cannot cut their own toenails anymore or take care of their feet in other ways. Caretakers need to treat the feet just like hands or other body parts to reduce the stigma around “smelly” feet. Only then can generations care for each other without shame and hesitation. We recommend the following steps as part of a regular foot health routine for Seniors or other individuals who require external care.

Step 1: Set Expectations and a Welcoming Environment
Every caretaker may have a unique routine when caring for their loved ones. It is generally advised to set expectations by guiding the person through the process before it starts. This will ease the tension and reduce potential conflicts during the care process.
You may even adapt the term “pedicure” and incorporate wellness elements in the routine, especially when you already know the person. Suggest a warm foot bath to support circulation, offer a foot massage and/or paint the toenails afterwards. Play some music or light a candle. This way you are not only taking care of your loved one’s physical health, but you are providing a pleasant experience with the potential to organically bond. Schedule a regular wellness routine every couple of weeks. The senior’s podiatrist may even propose certain wellness elements to help with chronic conditions or prevention.

Step 2: Visual Evaluation
Wash your hands and take a general look at the feet before cleaning them. Wear disposable gloves if the person has a history of toenail fungus and other spreadable conditions. Caretakers of at-risk individuals may be advised to create a log to note any bone deformities, lesions, bleeds and signs of infection. Also look out for discoloration of the skin and nails before starting the pedicure.

Step 3: Cut the Toenails
Use sanitized nail clippers to cut the toenails and a file to smooth the curves. Make sure not to share any files with others. Do not rush and look out for damaged skin and splintered nails in the process. Always make sure you are aware of any pre-existing conditions like ingrown toenails which may require a more nuance treatment per your Doctor’s advice. Serious cases may require a professional to get involved.

Step 4: Moisturize.
After the nails are filed, wash up the nail dust and moisturize the entire foot with lotion. We recommend lotions without scents and fragrances to minimize the risk of allergic reactions. Ask your podiatrist for a recommendation, especially if the person is already using any prescribed lotion.

Step 5: Dress
Help them put on new clean and dry socks and make sure they fit well to avoid cutting off circulation. Make sure the shoes are cleaned on a regular basis and still fit, because feet may change their form with age. Shoes that do not fit may lead to ingrown toenails and injuries. Bring up the topic of orthotics if necessary.

Step 6: Evaluate Routines
Find out how often socks are being washed and whether they are being stored in a dry location. Also make sure they are stored in an accessible location to avoid issues with deteriorating mobility. Schedule periodic appointments with a podiatrist and note any physical changes or pain in your log. Review the routine and products used with the podiatrist to aid in preventative care and with any existing conditions. Help your Senior follow the routine which is also helpful for patients with deteriorating memory. You may even consider creating a physical checklist.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Smith with any questions. Every person has unique needs and preferences, so customizing these steps will yield the best results in the long-term. We also would like to express our gratitude to all the caregivers out there who make the Quad Cities community a better place!

Seeking Immediate Medical Assistance vs Waiting for the COVID Vaccine

The news of a COVID-19 vaccine has thrilled the nation. People hope to resume their daily routines within a couple of months without potentially exposing themselves to COVID. This also means you now have to make a tough choice regarding your healthcare.

Will you seek immediate attention for a medical condition or will you wait for COVID to become less severe? Please keep in mind every situation is unique and only a qualified medical professional can make a final assessment. We, at Dr. Smith’s office, would like to provide a few thoughts on this topic from a podiatric perspective.

Pain Levels

The first step is to evaluate your pain level. Does the pain interrupt your daily life and normal activities or is it manageable in the short run? Are there alternative treatments to lower the pain? In any case, pain can be a serious indicator of an injury, so please call the office, explain your condition and ask for steps on moving forward. Self-medication often causes more harm than not and a simple phone call may give you the direction you need.

At-risk Patients

When calling the office, please consider telling us more about your COVID risk level. Patients with asthma, high blood pressure or obesity are more likely to suffer from more serious COVID complications. High-risk patients may be better advised to reschedule follow-up appointments or minor treatments. Knowing risk factors will also help us evaluate the risk of not seeking immediate treatment. Our goal is to weigh the benefits and risks of both actions against each other to come up with the most beneficial solution for you.

Chronic Conditions

The same applies to chronic conditions. Some patients have regular follow-up visits to evaluate progress of their treatment. In some cases, this evaluation may be done over the phone and could save you a trip to our office.

New Symptoms

You may experience new symptoms without exactly knowing whether these relate to a chronic condition, a known condition or to a completely new issue. Certain medications also have side effects, so check the label and give us a call with any questions before making an appointment.

Support Network

This element is often overlooked. Do you live with family who can help you out? Are you living in an assisted care facility with medical capacities? Are you living on your own without any direct support network? We recommend writing down a list of people close to you in case your situation worsens. These individuals may help you make the appropriate decision and call our office for more input. Make sure to communicate problems with loved ones, because a delayed diagnosis may cause non-reversible long-term damage and would outweigh the risk of a potential COVID infection.

Level of Exposure

Ask yourself if you have been exposed to individuals with COVID-19. The best protection for everyone is to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. Watching out for each other reduces exposure for all of us, so please make sure you are not accidentally exposing others when visiting the office.

In general, listen to your body and evaluate your situation with a trusted family member or friend. Keep in mind our office staff is doing everything in our power to keep the office hygienic and safe for you. When in doubt, please give us a call before making an appointment. Be transparent with your situation and ask for advice. We will be able to tell you if it makes more sense to make an immediate appointment or wait until the COVID exposure risk is lower. Your health is our number 1 priority, so please do not hesitate to reach out at any time.

Diagnosing Toenail Fungus

According to the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society, up to 20% of Americans suffer from toenail fungus – also called onychomycosis or tinea unguium. The prevalence of fungi even increases by age, and people over 60 are especially affected.

Once fungi enter the surface of the nail, the following infection frequently causes the nail to become darker and thicker, displays white marks and can develop an odor. Other toes as well as fingernails can be affected quickly. Event walking might become an issue when a painful infection is accompanied by other bacterial or yeast infections. Read more about how to prevent toenail fungus here.

Treating toenail fungus is a tedious process and usually requires medication. Medication needs to be taken for several months as the infected toenails need to grow out. Stopping any treatment too early will negatively impact the healing process.  Unnecessarily prolonging a treatment is never advised due to the exposure of side effects. Side effects of affordable and effective antifungal drugs may include liver damage and other complications. Other drugs may not pose any risk to the liver, but their effectiveness is questionable and their price can be significantly higher.

Having your podiatrist analyze your feet to make a professional diagnosis is key to choosing an appropriate treatment plan, especially as conditions like psoriasis and the following only look like a fungal infection:

  • Green nails can be caused by pseudomonas bacteria and cause a similar odor.
  • Darkish red nails can be caused by hematoma.
  • Yellowish nails can be caused by onycholysis.
  • Other discolorations can be caused by trauma or paronychia.
  • Find more information on conditions mimicking toenail fungus here.

Treatment may additionally be impacted by factors like patients’ general health, age, existing conditions, and insurance coverage. Only a professional can diagnose toenail fungus and choose a treatment plan whose benefits truly outweighs the risk. In some cases, this plan might include minor surgery.  The fact is that an early diagnosis can drastically shorten the time necessary for treatment and consequently can minimize expenditures. Please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Smith and Dr. Buckrop at 309-762-7919 if you have any questions.

You can find additional information here:

Importance of Regular Foot Exams

Did you know that having healthy feet is a huge part of having a healthy life? Every time we run or walk, an opportunity for bacteria or other foot related issues opens up. For diabetics especially, foot health is just as important as their general health. Doctors suggest that patients get foot exams annually.  Diabetic patients and people with prior feet problems may require checks more frequently.

While undergoing a foot exam, Doctors will look for cuts, infections, and ulcerations in the feet that can lead to larger health issues. Diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage in the feet, is a large issue for people with diabetes.  If infection or diabetic neuropathies are not properly addressed, the results may include long term and larger foot issues, or even amputation.

Ensuring Doctors are adequately undergoing foot exams is very important. Observation of foot color and temperature, sensitivity, and foot pulse should all be observed closely. If a person displays signs of a potential issue, their shoes should be examined. If shoes are too tight, it can cause circulation issues and lead to other problems. Smoking has shown to be very detrimental for foot health in diabetic patients, so it is advised that patients suffering from diabetes and foot issues refrain from smoking.

Getting an annual foot exam is just as important as a general health check-up. For diabetics, annual foot check-ups are a must have. Contact your doctor, if you wish to schedule a foot exam or to receive more information on the exam process.

Find more information about the importance of regular foot exams and how to prepare for them here:

https://www.apma.org/learn/content.cfm?ItemNumber=1347&navItemNumber=534

http://www.joslin.org/info/foot_exam.html

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