Woodward, Okla. —
Can you imagine stepping on a nail and not feeling it? Or having a sewing needle break off in your foot and not even know?
These have both happened to some diabetic patients and are just a couple of examples as to why diabetic foot care is so important, according to Daniel Clark with Advanced HomeCare.
Advanced HomeCare is a home health agency based out of Weatherford. In addition to the nursing care it provides to private patients in their homes, the agency also visits a number of senior centers to provide public health care programs, including an upcoming foot care session in Woodward.
Area seniors aged 55 and over are invited to visit the Woodward Senior Center on July 25 to get a free foot check. The foot checks will begin around 10:30 a.m. and continue until around noon, or until everyone who has signed up for a check gets seen.
There will be Registered Nurses on hand to conduct the diabetic foot care, Clark said.
"We will go out and soak their feet and clean under their nails if needed, then clip their toe nails and/or use an emory board to smooth them down. Then we'll lotion up their feet, and while we're doing that it gives them a little massage," Clark said. "But perhaps most importantly we'll be inspecting their feet for any problem areas."
Clark explained that sometimes diabetes, or even just the normal aging process, can cause circulation problems in a person's extremities which can lead to the loss of nerve sensitivity.
"In diabetic patients they'll often lose feeling in their feet, which is known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy," he said. "They are also subject to diabetic foot ulcers. The diabetes really compromises the blood flow to their feet and that's the reason why their nerves die and they aren't able to feel things and the reason why they get the sores on their feet."
Sometimes the loss of feeling can be quite dramatic, Clark said.
"I've seen pictures of people who have stepped on nails and it went up into their foot and they didn't even know until after they got an x-ray," he said, adding "I, myself, had a patient who had a needle broken off in her foot and we caught it during a foot check when we noticed a warm area on her foot. There was just one area on her foot that was warmer than the rest of the foot and that's not normal, so we had her checked out and that's how we found the needle."
But foreign objects stuck into the foot isn't the only podiatry problem that diabetics and senior citizens need to watch out for.
Clark said something as small as having untrimmed toenails can lead to big problems.
"If your toenails are too long, it affects your balance. It puts more pressure on your nail and that can affect your gait and could cause you to lose your balance and possibly fall. Or the nail could catch on a sock or something and get ripped off and cause a wound," he said.
Also by trimming the nails during the foot check, Clark said that the nurses can inspect them for fungus infections.
"If you get a bad fungus infection on a toenail, it can cause pressure and pain, which can also affect your balance," he said.
It can also affect a person's quality of life, he said.
"If you're an independent person, you're going to be up walking around and if foot problems are impeding your walking then it's impacting your quality of life," Clark said.
Because of this, he said that at Advanced HomeCare, "One thing we do is teach our patients to inspect their feet everyday."
If someone isn't able to make it to the free foot check program on July 25, Clark said they can perform their own foot checks at home. He said a good idea is to place a mirror by your bed and use it to look over the bottom of your feet in the morning for any problem areas before getting up and covering them with socks and shoes as you go about your day.
While the focus of the upcoming foot care program will be diabetic foot care, since diabetic patients are often at risk for foot problems, Clark made it clear that the Advanced HomeCare nurses will be available to provide foot care to any senior who attends.
"It doesn't have to be just diabetics, we'll take anyone and everyone who walks in," Clark said.
In addition to the foot care, Clark the nurses will also perform blood pressure, pulse and pulse oxygen checks for those who attend.
"Most people will do the whole thing with foot care and all, but a few will just want their blood pressure checked and we'll be happy to check it for them," he said.