Will a whirlpool foot bath help with elderly foot care?

by Margie
(Stayton, OR)

I'm worried about my mother's elderly foot care. Is a whirlpool-type foot bath advisable for a senior who cannot easily reach her feet for proper hygiene? She has toes that are deformed from the shoes she has worn. She is 89yrs.

REPLY from Caring-for-Aging-Parents.com
Elderly foot care is a big concern. Feet can really deteriorate as people age due to many years of hard use, poor footwear and typical changes in skin and bones related to aging.

Elderly diseases such as arthritis, elderly diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and skin or heart conditions can also have a negative effect on elderly foot condition.

I spoke to several foot care nurses and asked their expert opinion on this question.

The consensus is that a whirl-pool type foot bath will not harm and may even help with elderly foot care. A time limit of ten minutes for soaking feet is recommended.

Ensure Proper Drying
HOWEVER, it is important to make sure that the senior has to have a way to completely dry their feet after using the whirlpool bath.

As you described with your mother, it sounds like she cannot reach her feet for proper drying after so a whirlpool bath might not be a good option for her.

She could use one if she can have assistance afterwards for drying properly (this includes between all the toes).

There is equipment for seniors out there to help with drying such as long-handled toe dryers but they really don't work that well, particularly for elderly with deformed feet.

Careful of Water Temperature
It is also important to ensure the water is not too hot. With elderly diseases such as elderly diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, seniors might not have proper sensation (feeling) in their feet so may not be able to tell if the water
is too hot.

If elderly do not have full feeling in their feet (including hot/cold sensation), they should not use a whirlpool bath unless the temperature can be set at the proper temperature.

Tips for Elderly Foot Care
For proper elderly foot care, it is important to do the following:
  • Check feet daily: look for problems including sores, swelling, cuts, blisters, corns (especially new ones) or problems with toenails. As with your mother, many people have trouble bending down or pulling their feet up to check. In this case, using a long-handled mirror or having someone else check feet regularly is recommended.
  • Wash feet often: daily is recommended but this may not be feasible for your mother if she cannot do it herself. Wash in warm water, dry well including underneath and between the toes (where fungal infections can grow).
  • Take care of calluses or corns.
  • Trim toenails regularly - trim straight across and use a file to file down sharp edges.
  • Only use lotion if feet are dry and make sure to rub in thoroughly everywhere (including between toes).
  • Wear comfortable socks and shoes (even consider diabetic socks).

Consider having elderly foot care provided
Particularly when a senior cannot properly reach their feet or has elderly diseases such as elderly diabetes that put them at higher risk of foot issues, consider using a properly trained foot care nurse or podiatrist.

In some areas this service may be part or fully covered by public health care. In other areas, this may require paying for this service.

For more detailed information about elderly foot care, Elderly Foot Care.

Thank you for your question, Margie.

Please let us know if you've found any other solutions that work. If other visitors can add to this reply, please post a comment below.

Thank you,

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