Practical resources to help family caregivers in the midst of caring for someone

Foot care tips for people with diabetes

The feet are capable of taking on a lot, so it’s very important to take care of them. After all, your feet carry your weight for a lifetime as you stand, walk, or run, all day, every day. As a family caregiver you’re probably on your feet a lot during the day or maybe it just feels like it!  Foot care matters for you as a family caregiver and for the person in your care, especially if he or she has diabetes.

Foot care and diabetes

When you think about caring for someone with diabetes you probably think of making sure that they’re eating nutritious food and monitoring their glucose levels.

Another aspect of caring for someone with diabetes is making sure that their feet are properly cared for. It’s important for people with diabetes to have their feet assessed regularly by a health care provider.

A person with diabetes is at higher risk of developing foot injuries, wounds, and infections as a result of changes in circulation and damage to peripheral nerves that can develop over time. He or she may not have any symptoms of pain or discomfort even with severe infections and deep wounds.

Doctors and nurses can assist in diabetes management and may also have specialized training in foot care. The person in your care should have their feet assessed at least twice per year by their health care provider.

Have the person in your care remove their shoes and socks during a diabetes-related appointment so that the health care provider can assess their feet.

The health care provider may recommend that the person you’re caring for see at least one of these foot care specialists:

  • Pedorthist: a person trained in orthotic footwear and footwear modifications
  • Podiatrist or Chiropodist: specialists in treating foot disorders, diseases, and dysfunctions
  • Orthotist or Prosthetist: specialists in orthotic and/or prosthetic devices
  • Diabetes Educator: someone who can provide education on diabetes managementIn between appointments with foot care specialists, here are some foot care tips – things that you as a family caregiver can do to help the person in your care maintain optimum foot health:

Foot Care Tips

  • Check their feet daily. Inspect for cuts, cracks, or sores and report any of these changes to their health care provider.
  • Wash – don’t soak – feet daily. Soaking the feet increases the risk for infection, developing overly dry skin, or burn injuries because they may have less feeling/sensation in their feet as a result of the diabetes.Pat the skin dry and also make sure to dry between their toes where water may collect. Moist areas can lead to skin breakdown.
  • Apply a good skin moisturizer daily to the person’s feet to prevent dryness and cracking. Be sure to wipe away any excess moisturizer that doesn’t absorb and avoid applying moisturizer between the toes as excess moisture can promote infection.
  • Clean cuts and scratches with mild soap and water, cover with a dry dressing that is appropriate for sensitive skin, and report the injury to their health care provider.
  • Check the colour of the person’s legs and feet daily for signs of swelling, warmth, redness, or pain. These may be signs of an infection and the health care provider should be notified right away. If a person experiences these symptoms in one or both of their legs they should be taken to the nearest emergency department as this may be due to a blood clot and this can be life-threatening.
  • Tell a health care professional about any changes to the person’s skin or if a rash develops.
  • To avoid injuring the skin, never try to remove calluses, corns, warts, or bunions on your own using topical chemical treatments or using files or any sharp objects such as nail clippers, scissors, or razors.
  • Trim their toenails carefully and straight across. File the sharp ends in one direction with an emery board. This helps prevent the nails from splitting. Filing the sharp edges will also prevent the nails from poking the skin when they start growing back. You may want to ask a health care professional for assistance with this task to avoid accidentally causing injury to the person in your care. Remember that even a minor skin injury from nail clippers can quickly lead to infection in a person with diabetes.
  • To prevent injury to the feet, make sure that the person is never barefoot, even around the house. They should wear well-fitting slippers or house shoes while indoors to protect their feet from injury.
  • The person in your care should wear clean, dry socks. White socks can help you to see any “drainage” from foot injuries such as cuts, scrapes, blisters, or ingrown toe nails. Soiled socks should be changed right away.
  • Shoe irritation can cause foot ulcers or create a wound, both of which are dangerous for people with diabetes. It is important that shoes fit properly. Signs of redness or blisters indicate improper fit. Look for shoes that provide good support and help cushion the foot’s arch, heel, and ball of the foot. Most people have one foot that is larger than the other. It is important to purchase shoes that fit both feet.
  • Some shoe styles come in wide widths so consider these options if the person feels that their feet are being squeezed, especially in the toes.

The person’s health care provider may be able to prescribe orthopedic shoes or give them a referral to someone who specializes in orthotic footwear. These are especially helpful in correcting both structural and gait issues of the feet.

Healthy feet are crucial to continued independence, maintaining mobility, and reducing the risk of serious complications.

This article should not be considered a substitute for medical advice. Consult with a health care professional if you notice a wound or any other foot problems so that a proper treatment plan can be initiated to prevent further damage.

SE Health certified foot care nurses provide treatments such as clipping and treating callouses and corns, as well as addressing more complex foot care needs. SE Health’s foot care nurses are trained and highly skilled in identifying and treating ailments that can impact the foot health of the person you’re caring for.


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