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Why is good foot-care so important for people with dementia?
People with dementia can be prone to a loss of elasticity, sensitivity and padding in their feet. They can also suffer with collapsed arches and poor blood circulation. In addition to all this, dementia can cause unsteadiness, which in turn can lead to increased risk of falls and broken bones.
Good footcare can minimise the risks associated with all of these problems and keep feet in the best posible condition.
How can I help a person with dementia care for their feet?
· Pay attention to footwear:
Wearing shoes which help them to walk comfortably and safely. Your podiatrist can suggest suitable footwear, taking into account individual walking patterns. Always wear socks to avoid skin lacerations and decrease sweating.
· Avoid walking barefoot and take care to examine the inside of shoes before putting them on. Reduced sensitivity or an inability to express pain might mean damage occurs unknowingly.
· Cut nails properly.
It is much better to trim the nails as straight as possible to avoid ingrown toe nails and infections.
· Avoid chemical plasters or shave blades to treat hard skin and callus: it may cause skin wounds or ulcers. If these appear, visit your podiatrist to have them treated correctly.
It is advisable to use a cream with Urea 10-30% concentration, as it will improve skin elasticity and reduce the injury risk caused by pressure or rubbing. Try to avoid applying the cream between the toes, unless specifically prescribed by your GP.
· Protect feet from cold and heat:
Avoid using direct sources of heating, (electric heater/brazier), or hot packs on the feet and legs as this can lead to circulatory problems and may inadvertantly cause scalds or burns due to decreased sensitivity or diminishing communication skills. Try to using woolen socks if feet are getting chilly.
· Wash daily with lukewarm water, drying and inspecting feet for any irregularities. Some serious foot problems such as wounds or infections may not be giving the person any symptoms and therefore could be missed.
· Visiting the podiatrist periodically: the loss of cognitive and sensory abilities may lead any problems becoming serious if not treated promptly by a professional.
Ivan Maestre, Podiatrist at Randell’s Footcare