Caring for an Elderly Parent

In the era of an aging population, the likelihood is greater than ever that you may find yourself caring for  one or both of your parents.  This can be overwhelming and include a lot of details you never had to previously consider. In the juggling of tasks, it’s not uncommon for something as routine as foot care to be forgotten.  While it’s not as immediately life-threatening as forgetting say, heart medication, foot care for the elderly can play a part in the comfort and well-being of your parent. Here are some tips to keep in mind regarding their foot care:

  • Wash between the toes. Take a wash cloth or gauze pad, wet with warm soapy water, and run it between the toes. Swelling and joint contractures of the toes causes dry skin and debris to get trapped between the toes. Cleaning this out can reduce the risk of maceration or break down of the skin in the toe spaces and will increase comfort.
  • Dry well between the toes. After that special attention you’ve given by cleaning between the toes, be sure to dry between the toes. The same swelling and stiffness that traps the debris, also traps the moisture. Over time, athlete’s foot and other infections can set in. Keeping it dry between the toes will decrease that likelihood.
  • Moisturize the skin. Dry, cracking skin is more prone to infection, pain and bleeding. The dry skin edges can catch on socks or bedding, then pull and tear. Moisturizing daily and especially after bathing improves the texture and quality of the skin. But here is where you need to ignore the space between the toes as we don’t want to increase the moisture in those spaces.
  • Look for unusual skin lesions or colors. While you are caring for the feet, look for signs of trouble. Sometimes sensation is dulled with disease or aging, and pain that would normally alert us to seek medical attention is no longer giving that clue.
  • Check out the toenails. Nails can become thickened or very curved as the years pass. At times they curl around the toe tips and cut into the skin, or jut out abruptly towards the adjacent toe. You may not be able to adequately care for them with drugstore instruments. In order to avoid injury, seek help for those unusually shaped or thickened nails.

foot care for the elderly


Proper foot care for the elderly doesn’t have to be complicated, but it will require a bit of attention. Using these simple steps should make the process less complicated. And above all, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help.  If you haven’t thought to check your dependent parent’s feet and nails, today is the best day to start.

For more tips regarding foot health, visit the APMA website.

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