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Caregiver Training Blog

Seniors, Circulation, and What Caregivers Need to Know

Many seniors suffer from foot problems and poor leg circulation. Unfortunately, what may begin as a mere inconvenience or minor discomfort can progress to a potentially life-threatening problem if not properly managed. Let's take a closer look at the issue of leg circulation and seniors, along with a few ways caregivers can help get the blood flowing and improve circulation.



Moving the body is a terrific natural way to improve circulation.

Circulation and Seniors

The circulation of blood throughout the human body is an essential part of ongoing health. While this is an involuntary process, it can get harder with age -- particularly when it comes to circulating blood from the lower extremities, like the legs and feet. Why? For one simple reason: it involves the challenging task of pushing the blood back uphill to the heart.

A number of factors impact circulation in seniors, including everything from diabetes to a sedentary lifestyle to smoking. Poor circulation can lead to a number of symptoms, including swollen feet and ankles, cramps, and pain. Additionally, if your aging loved one complains of aching, tired or "heavy" legs, he may also be suffering from poor circulation.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory issue in which blood flow to the limbs is reduced by narrowed arteries. This should not be mistaken for a "normal" effect of aging, and requires lifestyle changes and/or medical intervention. If left untreated, PAD can lead to critical limb ischemia, infarction, tissue death, and even the need for amputation. It can also increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.

If your aging loved one does suffer from poor circulation, understanding and treating the underlying causes is an important part of the equation so be sure to check in with his healthcare team.


Even a brief walk comes with circulatory benefits.

Improving Senior Circulation

Caregivers can help seniors improve circulation and enjoy a better quality of life through several lifestyle changes.

  • Getting up and about is one of the simplest ways to get the blood pumping. Walking, swimming, and even heel-toe exercises while watching television -- perfect for easing in the extremely sedentary -- are ideal ways to give the circulatory system a boost. Just remember to start slow and work your way up when encouraging seniors to adopt new fitness routines.
  • Diet is also essential, as some foods -- including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- have been linked with promoting circulation. Also, make sure your aging loved one stays amply hydrated.
  • Smoking vastly increases the risk of poor circulation by narrowing the arteries and restricting blood flow, so if your aging loved one smokes, encourage him to quit.
  • Elevating your aging loved one's feet and warm water soaks help alleviate pain and swelling while delivering short-term circulatory benefits.

If circulation problems persist or worsen despite these lifestyle changes, your aging loved one's physician may recommend medication and/or surgical intervention. A podiatrist can also be a valuable resource for finding the right shoes to protect feet and prevent pain.

Just because poor circulation is common among seniors doesn't mean your aging loved one has to endure unchecked suffering. Caregivers can offer helpful partnerships in looking for signs of poor circulation and taking steps to manage and treat the symptoms. 

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