If you’ve ever experienced foot pain, you know how frustrating and debilitating it can be. So, it can be very difficult to see a loved one go through these kinds of struggles. Although all foot problems should be addressed by a podiatric physician, the support and care of friends and family can be just as important in helping a loved one recover, cope, and maintain the highest possible quality of life.
If you’re in the position of a direct caregiver—whether to a young child or an aging parent or grandparent—it’s important that you take your loved one’s concerns seriously and keep an eye out on your own for any signs of trouble. Don’t shut them down or downplay their pain if they share something with you—believe and support them, schedule an appointment, and go with them. Keep in mind, though: they may not always be willing or able to tell you something is wrong—and if they’ve been living with pain for months or even years, they may have simply stopped talking about it. You may have to rely on your own powers of observation and (gently) ask questions or share any concerns with them.
If the family member is not directly under your care—perhaps a sibling, spouse, adult child, parent that you are not a formal caregiver for, etc.—the situation can be a little trickier. Obviously, you cannot force somebody to make a certain medical decision, even if you believe it is the correct one. You can encourage them to seek help from a podiatrist and even offer to accompany them, but you can’t make them go. Remember that responding with compassion, love, and kindness—rather than frustration and judgment—is the best policy. Responding in anger to what is already a very difficult and painful situation often just makes things worse.
Beyond simply taking your loved one to a foot doctor, there are many other ways you can be supportive:
- Educate yourself. Learning more about what your loved one is going through can help you understand their emotions, predict their needs and requests, and respond with empathy and charity.
- Help them adjust their living space. Foot pain can make reaching high objects or getting up and down stairs a challenge. Low objects can also become more of a tripping hazard. You may offer to help your loved one do some cleaning and reorganizing in order to get everyday objects in closer reach.
- Make a list of things your loved one can’t do well—and also the things they CAN do well. Offering to help a loved one with tasks and chores usually comes with the best of intentions. But offering to simply do everything for them can often leave a loved one feeling disempowered and depressed. Allow your loved one to continue doing chores that they can handle safely, and spend your time where your help is truly needed.
- Help them stay connected. People in pain often feel isolated. They may have trouble just getting outside the house, and are unable to attend family and social events. Even if they can attend, they may not be able to fully participate—and it’s difficult to be a bystander. You can help your loved one feel connected by spending time with them, encourage them to join a support group, or planning family activities that they can fully engage in despite their physical limitations.
- Be patient. There will be times when your loved one can’t complete tasks as quickly as you or they would like. There will be times when they get angry or frustrated at their situation, and may even lash out at you. Do your best to be patient. Do not respond with anger, pity, or condescension. Always be generous and compassionate, and give them space if they need it.
- Take care of yourself, too. Caring for someone else’s pain and frustration can be stressful and exhausting, especially if you become the target of irritation. This is normal. Be cognizant of your own physical and emotional needs and be willing to take back and care for yourself, too.
The Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona are a team of podiatric physicians with extensive experience caring for all types of foot pain, among people of all ages. We would be happy to care for your family’s feet, and welcome family members who wish to come along. To set up an appointment, give us a call today at (480) 963-9000.