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!