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Seniors' dealih Focus
Treat Your Feet to Some T.L.C.
W hen was the last time you took a good, hard
look at your feet? If it's been a while, go
ahead and take off your shoes and socks. Right now!
What do you see? Redness? Calluses? An ingrown
toenail? Chances are, you don't take care of your
feet nearly as well as you take care of your heart,
lungs and other body parts.
Your two feet-however boring and unglam-
orous-are no less important. Those often tired,
weary, sore, red, aching, swelling feet have the
thankless job of balancing the rest of your body so
you can sit, stand, walk and run. In fact, if you're
about average, you will walk nearly 65,000 miles in
So go ahead and thank your feet for all their hard
work. How? All it takes is a little tender loving care
Foot care for seniors
"Proper foot care is so important," stresses Doro-
thy Yenni, charge nurse for the Foot Care Service
sponsored by Catherine McAuley Health Center's
Department of Services to the Elderly and the
Office of Health Promotion. "Foot problems have a
direct impact on your mobility. If mobility is dimin-
ished, you can be in real trouble.
"Foot problems have put people in nursing
homes," Yenni continues. 'And the problems won't
just go away. They need to be taken care of."
Yenni says the reasons seniors seek out the
Health Center's Foot Care Service are as numerous
as the people themselves. She explains, however,
that many seniors have an inability to bend over
because of arthritis. Sometimes poor vision pre-
vents them from seeing their feet clearly. Others
living alone may have no one to help them with
foot care. Others simply prefer to leave their foot
care to a health professional. Yenni also points out
the Foot Care Service refers seniors with diabetes
and vascular disease to their physicians for foot
"Many seniors come repeatedly," says Yenni,
"generally once every six to eight weeks.
"Seniors also come for the educational compo-
nent of the service," she says, adding that they want
information about how to take care of their feet.
The Foot Care Service is available by appoint-
ment at both Reichert Health Building in Ann Arbor
and Arbor Health Building in Plymouth. A nurse
will make a thorough assessment of your feet. Treat-
ment includes a foot soak, nail trimming, pumicing
and foot massage. In addition to providing informa-
tion about proper foot hygiene, exercise and foot-
wear, the nurse can refer individuals to a physician
for skin, circulatory and bone treatment if
Common foot problems
Corns and calluses are thickenings of the skin
that are caused by friction and increased pressure
on the foot. They can be serious and cause pain,
says Yenni. What's the difference between a corn
and a callus? A corn is found on the softer skin,
usually on top of or between the toes. A callus
forms on the tough skin on the bottom of the foot.
Fungal conditions, including athlete's foot, can
cause redness, blisters, itching and peeling. Fungi
and bacteria have an ideal environment-a warm,
dark and damp enclosed space-in which to grow
on your feet, especially between the toes. Yenni
warns that fungus can easily grow under thickened
and hardened toenails. This is not usually dan-
gerous but it can cause self-care problems.
Dry skin, another common foot problem
among seniors, can cause cracks that become
prone to infection.
Ingrown toenails occur when a piece of the
nail pierces the skin. These are especially common
in large toes. They can usually be avoided by cut-
ting the toenail straight across and level with the
top of the toe.
If the shoe fits ...
If you're all set to give your feet plenty of T.L.C.,
make sure that you have the right shoes to cover
and protect them. A low-heeled, soft leather shoe
with plenty of room for your toes is the best choice,
according to Yenni. Leather will conform to the
shape of your foot. It also allows the feet to
"breathe" and can reduce the possibility of skin
Yenni offers a few suggestions for everytime you
shop for shoes. First, have both feet measured
while you are standing. And try on shoes in the late
afternoon, when feet are swollen to their largest
"Don't worry, I won't
tickle you,"says Mary
Seibert, a nurse at the
Health Center's Foot Care
Service, as shefiles a
toenailfor Elva Caswell
(left). Caswell's daughter,
Ethelyn Estey (center),
also had berfeet assessed
and treated by Seibert.
Yenni adds a final note of caution: Never go bare-
foot. Seniors and diabetics especially have less feel-
ing in their feet, and a cut or sliver may go
unnoticed until it becomes infected.
For more information about foot care or to
schedule an appointment with the Foot Care Ser-
vice, please call Services to the Elderly at 572-5189. wD
If the shoes aren't comfortable when tried on,
don't count on "breaking them in." If you're not
sure, wear the shoes for a half hour when you re-
turn home. Then take them off and look at your feet
for redness or sore spots. Most shoe stores should
take the shoes back if they were worn for a very
short time indoors and promptly returned.
Eight Steps to Happier Feet
"Wells "OF ag
1. Inspect your feet daily. Look for redness, swell-
ing, corns, calluses and painful pressure points.
2. Wash your feet daily with a mild soap.
3. Soak feet daily or less often if dry skin is a prob-
lem. Soak them in a foot bath of warm water and
a tablespoon of mineral oil for no more than 10
minutes. Caution: To avoid a dangerous slip
or fall, never use mineral oil in the bath
4. When feet are still softened from soaking, gently
rub corns or calluses with a pumice stone to re-
move a few surface skin layers. Do this on a reg-
ular basis so that the corn or callus doesn't build
up to the point where it has to be cut off with a
blade or knife. And don't use a blade or knife
yourself-see a professional.
5. Also after soaking, apply a moisturizing lotion to
feet, but not between your toes.
6. To temporarily relieve the pressure of corns, use
cushioning corn pads. If you use over-the-coun-
ter corn removal products, use them with care.
Seek medical attention if you notice any signs of
unusual redness, infection or pain.
7. To increase the blood flow through your feet,
establish a walking routine. Start out slow and
gradually increase from walking three times
each week to walking daily.
8. To prevent fungal infections like athlete's foot,
keep your feet dry-especially between the toes.
Fungicidal powders can be dusted on the feet