Support for Feet, Starting a Congregational Foot Care Clinic

Providing care for the whole body, mind, and spirit

QUESTION:

I am worried about the feet of some of the parishioners in our congregation and community, particularly older adults with diabetes. I’m thinking of offering a foot clinic in our church. Do you have any suggestions?

 

ANSWER:

With more than 1 out of every 4 adults over 65 living with diabetes (National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011) and with other health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer disease also making it difficult for older adults to take care of their feet, this is a valuable service. You are right, however, in that you will want to do this in a way that protects the health of the older adults whose feet may need special care due to vulnerabilities brought about by their health conditions. Sandy Madsen, RN, BSN, education coordinator at Northwest Parish Nurse Ministry, reminds folks that they “do have to be careful with foot care especially when dealing with diabetics and folks with peripheral vascular disease, venous vs. arterial ulcers and the like. Treating feet is quite a specialty, and referral to the correct resource for problems needs to be in the nurse’s scope of knowledge. I think it is an excellent idea for the nurse to consider some specialized training.”

The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board lists programs that include certified foot care education. You may want to consider having someone in your congregation who would be heading this up take one of these classes.

Nancy Moore, RN, parish nurse at Tucker Swamp Baptist Church in Zuni, Virginia, was featured in an issue of Parish Nurse Perspectives for her “Sole Care” program. This program was held once a month at the church, with the community invited. Nancy publicized this outreach program in the local newspapers and on the local radio stations in their free broadcast times.

Clients soaked their feet in warm soapy water for fifteen to twenty minutes. This was a time when the “server,” or as she called them, “clipper,” came to know any clients who were new.

At times, Nancy played soft relaxing background music. Participants also seemed to enjoy gospel music videos. A few regularly came early so they could be with the workers for prayer before they began the ministry session for the day.

Through this ministry, Nancy made referrals to a podiatrist for continued foot care. “What a great feeling to assist people in learning how to care for their feet and to be a part of giving care to a part of the person that is so often not thought about,” Nancy said. “Other areas of need have also been discovered and our other ministry teams have come to the rescue! The word of this ministry spread and it is really exciting. The volunteers love it!” The volunteers also provided refreshments during the morning.

Sharon Christensen, RN, MSN, has a similar program for homeless visitors to her downtown Portland parish, St. Andre Bessette Catholic Church. She writes, “I started a foot care ministry after retiring from home health and hospice management in 2004. It has developed into a vibrant ministry with three RNs and volunteers. We have student nurses who help with the program and come back to volunteer. Volunteers wash feet and we have massage tubs after the wash. After that one of the RNs assesses and treats any problems, including consideration of medical problems and looking at the lower extremities. We all believe the treatment that is offered not only is of great assistance and comfort for the homeless but also gives us a chance to spend quality time with these folks and give them advice on other medical conditions and whether or not to seek help from a medical doctor or nurse practitioner. This ministry takes place in the parish, which is situated in downtown Portland, Oregon. None of the RNs have wound, ostomy and continence nursing (WOCN) certification. We have an occasional RN who has a foot care certification.”

Blessings to all those who provide care for the whole body, mind, and spirit, and do so in a community-building context! Thanks so much for your interest in offering this program in your setting, as well.


Excerpt from Health Ministry Advice for Everyone by Deborah Patterson
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