With so many in aged care spending much of their work time on their feet, looking after them is so very important – and during this Foot Health Week (October 11-17), the Australian Podiatry Association is reminding everyone of the critical role these underrated appendages play in our overall health.
Caitlin Jeffries, podiatrist and spokesperson for Australian Podiatry Association, tells Aged Care News that if foot alignment is compromised, it can cause a lot of issues higher up in your body.
“A good analogy is, in a similar way to how we’d have wheels on our car aligned regularly and the tires repaired to ensure that the car’s running smoothly and without complications, by having your feet assessed to ensure that they’re functioning properly, and addressing any issues that might crop up early, we can certainly prevent pain and dysfunction in the body,” she says.
Tips for aged care workers
If you are working in the industry, you are surely not a stranger to the gruelling nature of long days spent primarily on your feet.
“The most common issue in aged care workers and nurses in the feet is definitely heel pain – commonly known as ‘plantar fasciitis’,” Jeffries says.
“Other common issues that we see are corns and calluses, due to altered foot mechanics and extensive periods of time on their feet.”
Firstly, Jeffries suggests seeing a podiatrist for an assessment.
Research shows that 95 per cent of Australians experience an improvement in their pain and mobility levels after consultation with a podiatrist.
Secondly, she says that selecting the right type of footwear is vital.
“My two top tips for aged care workers selecting shoes would be a well-structured shoe based on running technology, to provide the best support for the foot, cushioning for the joints and the knees, hips and back.
“And, ideally, what lots of people don’t realise is the importance of having two pairs of shoes because, in a running based shoe, we know that the form through the midsole takes 24-hours to decompress after wearing.
“So if you are doing shifts every day, to have the best support and cushioning, you would alternate between the two shoes.”
Podiatric care essential for all older Australians
If one has maintained the recommended 10,000 steps per day, by age 80, one could have walked over 290 million steps in their lifetime!
Such hard working feet, whether they belong to someone living at home or in residential aged care, deserve frequent check-ups to maintain optimum movement.
“Mobility in the ageing population is obviously paramount to maintaining independence dignity and quality of life,” Jeffries says.
However, she notes that preventative care is often overlooked, which is especially important for those with comorbidities such as diabetes, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
For older Australians with a diagnosed chronic health condition, Medicare may subsidise up to five allied health sessions per calendar year, including podiatry.
“The general public value regular dental check-ups; podiatry should be the same,” Jeffries says.
“Even if you don’t experience pain or anything in your lower limbs, there might be other things going on, or other conditions that need assessment to stop other problems developing.”
Whilst often allocated exclusively physiotherapists, fall prevention is another area in which podiatrists have unique expertise.
“We engage with physiotherapists and work together,” Jeffries says.
“Podiatry intervention is associated with a 36 per cent reduction in the rate of falls in community dwelling.
“For all issues from the knees down we should really be your first port of call, plus you don’t need a referral to see us.
“We love working in consultation with other medical professionals and believe this is integral for best health outcomes.”
For more information about foot health for essential workers and/or older Australians, follow this link.