Looking after a loved one who suffers from dementia is a big challenge. The state of their feet may be the last thing on your mind, yet a good foot care regime is just as important as their personal hygiene, diet, or general wellbeing.
Foot health issues are worse for dementia sufferers, as they often struggle to explain the cause of their discomfort. Indeed, loss of sensitivity can make them unaware there is any problem at all. Their tendency to wander – sometimes for hours – exacerbates the situation by placing even more pressure on their feet.
Problems Build Up
The fatty padding in feet wears down over time. Without this protective layer, bones and muscles are exposed to pressure and damage. Loss of flexibility, blood flow issues and collapsed arches are also common in older people.
Bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoe, toenail issues and infections are just some of the conditions that arise. Any of these can create problems with balance and mobility, leaving your loved one at risk of falls and further injury.
Examine their Feet Regularly
Head off problems before they occur by regularly checking your loved one’s feet and always include them in their daily hygiene routine. If you spot anything that doesn’t look right speak to a podiatrist. These things don’t go away on their own and will only get worse.
Clean and Moisturise
Careful washing with warm water and soap goes a long way to preventing bacterial and fungal infections – just don’t forget to dry carefully, even between the toes. Dementia sufferers may struggle to bathe every day, but you can keep their feet in good order by gently cleaning them with a flannel. Indeed, this can be very soothing, particularly if done just before bedtime.
Older skin is drier, flakier and prone to cracking, sores and infection. Help to protect against this by moisturising regularly. It’s a good idea to do this after washing but make sure the skin is dry first and avoid getting it between the toes. This hydrates the skin and keeps it supple and healthy – a good way to keep infection at bay.
Keep Toenails Trimmed
Overly long toenails trap dirt, cause infections, and compromise stability which leads to falls. Avoid this by having your loved one’s toenails trimmed regularly.
If you’re doing this yourself, ensure you cut the nail straight across and carefully smooth the edges with a nail file. Don’t be tempted to round off the ends – these can grow into the flesh to cause painful ingrown toenails.
Anyone with conditions that affect their feet (diabetes for example) should have their nails cut by a podiatrist if at all possible.
Comfy Shoes and Slippers
Footwear must support and protect feet and ankles, so it needs to fit properly. Worn-out shoes (and particularly slippers) are a major cause of falls for elderly or less mobile people. Ensure your loved one’s feet are measured by experts to keep them safe and comfortable.
Limited mobility or conditions such as diabetes impede circulation. This can lead to many serious problems such as heart conditions, strokes and blood clots. Encourage healthy blood flow with gentle massage and ensure the elderly person elevates their feet when sitting. Compression socks can also be helpful.
Reassuring Care for Dementia sufferers
It’s stressful caring for a vulnerable person but there’s no need to struggle alone. Our experienced podiatrists can help with exercise and footwear advice, treatment for specific conditions and general maintenance – plus guidance and support for you. Book an appointment at one of our London foot clinics today.