A Caregiver’s Guide to Caring for Feet

While you do your best to care for your clients and improve the quality of their lives, sometimes there are areas of care which may be overlooked.  Among all the tasks that can be required of a caregiver an important one is keeping your client’s feet happy and healthy. Caring for your client’s feet is more than just washing and dressing them daily.  There are other aspects you need to be aware of while providing excellent care to their feet which includes: how to wash their feet, how to trim their nails properly, how to recognize signs of infection and how to recognize signs of discomfort.  Below you will find helpful tips on ways that you can provide excellent care to your client’s feet.

How to Properly Clean Your Client’s Feet

Wash their feet daily with warm soap and water. If your client has dry skin, try adding baby oil or mineral oil to their bath water.  You can also use non-scented moisturizers if your client’s skin is dry.  Be sure to thoroughly dry their feet especially between their toes. If moisture is left behind it can create a breeding ground for fungus.

How to Correctly Trim Your Client’s Toenails

Along with keeping their feet clean, maintaining toenails is also very important! Depending upon which state you live in some caregivers are not allowed to trim their client’s nails.  If you live in a state that allows you to trim nails, be sure to trim the nail straight across. Trimming the nail at an angle or around the nail bed can encourage the nail to grow down and inward, often resulting in a painful ingrown toenail.  If you ever feel overwhelmed by your patients nails, take them to a podiatrist. They have special tools to combat thick and overgrown nails.

If you live in a state where caregivers are not allowed to trim a client’s nails, you will then need to have them visit a podiatrist or a nail salon regularly.  In California, if your patient is elderly and has vascular disease (which diminishes blood flow), neuropathy (lack of feeling in their feet), or diabetes, their insurance should allow them to be seen on a regular basis with a podiatrist to have their nails trimmed and their calluses debrided.  It is especially important for a client with diabetes and neuropathy to have regular visits with a podiatrist because sometimes under the callus build-up there can be an open sore. An untreated open sore can lead to pain, discomfort and even amputation or death! So keep a close eye on them!  If your client’s nails are too thick for them to trim on their own, they can become overgrown and penetrate the skin, leading to pain and infection.

All podiatry offices offer services called ‘palliative foot care’ to patients who do not qualify for regular podiatry care, according to their insurance rules. With palliative foot care the patient/client can pay cash to have their nails cut and their calluses debrided in order to keep their feet healthy. Remember, when their feet are healthy, they can then keep the rest of their body healthy.

How to Identify Undesirable Foot Conditions

While it is not expected of you to diagnose foot conditions (that’s the doctor’s job), you should still be able to tell when there is a condition that needs the attention of a podiatrist.

Common foot conditions include:

Athlete’s Foot: A scaly, itchy rash around the toes and sides of the feet.

Fungal Nails: Thick, brittle, yellow nails.

Ingrown Toenails: Nails pushing into the skin, causing it to be red and swollen and sometimes oozing pus if infection is present.

Open sores: Keep a close eye on any signs of an open sore. Keep the area clean and dry.  If your client is a diabetic or has neuropathy, visit a podiatrist immediately!

Dry and Cracked Skin: cracked skin can be an invitation to an infection and is very uncomfortable.

Other signs of discomfort:

Tight fitting shoes: leave seam indentations on the client’s foot, promotes blisters and ingrown toenails.

Remember, examining your patient’s feet daily should be a part of your regular care routine. Look for pressure points caused by shoes, overgrown nails, thick nails, callus build up, dry skin, open sores and signs of infection.  If you are not able to care for your client’s feet, feel overwhelmed at the condition of their feet or just aren’t sure the correct method of treatment, reach out to your local podiatrist. They will be able to guide you in the right direction and help you to help keep your client’s feet happy and healthy.

If you are in the Sonoma County area and are in need of a podiatrist for you or your client, please call us today at (707) 578-1222 to schedule an appointment.