Falling as a senior is extremely dangerous. Since our bodies weaken with age, they become more prone to serious bone fractures that can result in loss of independence or even death. That's why it's so important to know which conditions increase the risk of falling, such as loss of hearing, poor eyesight, dizziness, and more.
But one thing people often forget about is the condition of the senior’s feet. After all, our feet allow us to maintain balance while walking – so if a senior develops a foot disorder, they'll be much more likely to fall. Fortunately, there are some proactive (and reactive) actions you can take to ensure your loved one’s feet are healthy.
Common Foot Disorders That Affect Seniors
Everyone has had swollen feet at least once in their lifetime. Usually, this happens due to blood pooling in the lower part of the foot, caused by standing or sitting for long periods. Since blood is more likely to pool in veins when we get older, seniors have a higher chance of developing swollen feet. This symptom aggravates even further when the senior suffers from cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, or lymphatic system obstruction.
Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses are thickened skin that appears on toes or the ball of the foot, which can be quite painful. Because of this, seniors might try to relieve pressure from the sore area while walking, which causes a lack of balance. Although over-the-counter medicine is available, it’s always recommended to go to a podiatrist or chiropodist to remove them.
Bunions are a dealignment of the big toe joints that makes the big toe bend inwards. Sometimes the big toe can even end up on top of the second toe. In this case, bunion surgery is necessary, but you can prevent this from happening by using a bunion corrector in the early stages.
Hammertoe and Claw Toes
Sometimes known as a contracted toe, hammertoe is caused by the shortening of the tendons at the toe joints making the second or middle toe curl up. Claw toes are a similar condition where the tip of the toe gets curled, giving it a claw-like shape (hence the name). Like calluses, hammertoes and claw toes are extremely painful and they affect the senior's balance. They’re typically caused by wearing ill-suited footwear, such as tight shoes or high heels. Seniors can use corrective tools to prevent such conditions, but surgery is required in extreme scenarios.
As the name suggests, an ingrown toenail is a nail that grows into the flesh. Most people suffering from an ingrown toenail can’t walk straight due to the pain. The best way to prevent it is by cutting your nails properly. Some older adults are more prone to developing ingrown toenails, which then needs to be safely removed by a foot specialist.
Essential Foot Care Practices
The good news is that seniors can do some simple foot care practices to improve their feet’s health. Bear in mind that if your loved one is already in a more advanced stage of one of these conditions, they should visit a foot specialist to find the best solution.
Feet exercises are excellent ways to improve toe and ankle muscles. Seniors can try exercises such as picking up marbles with their toes or using their feet to stretch a resistance band tied to a table leg.
Wearing shoes with the correct size is also essential. If you can't go with a senior to the store to try on the shoes, you’ll have to buy them online. For the ideal fit, you can measure their foot length and width and then Google ‘shoe size conversion' to get the correct size. But remember that older people might need more room for extra comfort.
More importantly, make sure your loved one wears shoes made of quality materials. The best option would be orthotic shoes, either prefabricated or custom-made.
How To Prevent Seniors From Falling
Foot conditions take time to heal, but there are some actions you can take right now to decrease the chance of your loved one falling from a foot disorder or any other condition. The first thing you should do is fall-proof the home. It can be as simple as taking away all the slippery rugs or as thorough as doing a massive bathroom redesign.
On top of that, you can offer them some non-slip socks, place grab bars throughout the house, and have a bedside commode so seniors can easily go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. For extra peace of mind, you should also consider getting a medical alert system with fall detection. This way, if your loved one does fall, assistance will be sent automatically even if they can't ask for help.
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