Caring for Someone Else’s Feet: The Basics
Caring for someone with a chronic condition generally involves multiple tasks, running the gamut from ensuring the person gets medication as prescribed to assisting with activities of daily living. Focusing on preventive foot health may seem like a luxury under such circumstances, but it isn’t; even if a person isn’t mobile, his/her feet still need attention–for hygiene, as well as for general health and safety.
It is especially important to include foot care in the overall regimen of daily care if the individual you’re caring for has diabetes or other conditions that affect blood flow or nerves in the lower extremities. That care can make the difference between keeping a limb or losing it to disease and could possibly save the person’s life. See the appropriate articles for details.
IPFH suggests that basic foot care for someone with a chronic condition, regardless of whether or not he/she is mobile, include the following steps:
- Thoroughly inspect the person’s feet by looking at them and feeling them with your hands at least once a day, but preferably twice a day for any bumps, lumps, sores, lesions or pressure points where sores and ulcers might form.
- Wash the person’s feet at least once daily with warm (not hot) water and mild soap.
- Make sure that toenails are trimmed regularly and correctly.
- Make sure the person has footwear appropriate to the degree and level of his/her mobility. If the individual is fully or partially mobile, this means properly selected and fitted, as part of an integrated approach, padded socks with shoes with non-slip outsoles and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional . Peer-reviewed, published studies have shown that wearing clinically tested padded socks can help protect against injuries to the skin/soft tissue of the foot, a major cause of diabetic ulcerations.
- If the individual is immobile, wheelchair bound or bedridden, he/she should wear shoes and padded socks that do not confine or restrict the feet and that protect the vulnerable heel area from pressure ulcers.
- Make sure the individual does not cross his/her legs for extended periods, as this can reduce blood flow and create pressure points.
- Move the individual or make sure that he/she changes position at least once every two or three hours to avoid tissue damage or pressure sores.
- Encourage and facilitate appropriate physical activity. Check with the person’s doctor for recommendations on exercise and activities. Investigate exercise programs that may be available in your area. Spend time outside when the weather permits, and always make sure the person wears properly fitted shoes and padded socks that are appropriate for the activity he/she is engaged in.
Remember to take care of your own feet by following good foot hygiene. If your feet hurt or bother you in any way, you may not be able to function fully or fulfill your caregiver responsibilities.