Why residents constantly lose their shoes in long-term care

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I’ve met some of the best people while working in long-term care. While there are plenty of residents’ families that I wish I hadn’t had to deal with, there are many more that are absolutely wonderful. I was talking to one woman the other day whose mother is in our care.

“Some people get upset about the silliest, littlest things,” I was saying. “People always come to me and say things like, ‘Why are my mom’s shoes missing again! This is ridiculous.’”

She laughed. “That’s a pretty minor issue.”

“I know,” I smiled. “And the shoes always turn up. Residents just kick their shoes off all the time, and everybody’s shoes look the same around here.”

It was then that I realized something. Shoes were truly the item that went missing the most frequently. It made sense, though, why these residents were always ditching their sneakers: they were inside the “house” most of the day.

How many times has your mom told you not to track mud in the house? For my residents that are more cognitively impaired, especially, wearing shoes indoors must seem like an abomination. They don’t realize that they live in an apartment-like setting, and that it may be good to wear shoes in the hallway. Shoes help steady our residents and protect their feet. To people that have dementia, though, they may simply think, “Hey, I’m inside the house.”

We’re constantly putting our residents’ shoes back on their feet. It makes sense, though, that they’d be kicking them off. The long-term care community is their home! It’s the place they spend all of their time. Why would they want to have shoes on 24/7? The first thing I do when I get home is take off my shoes.

To families moving loved ones to long-term care I suggest this: provide different shoe options, including ones that work well for outdoor trips. Label all of your loved one’s shoes. But, most of all, provide some comfortable indoor options, even if that option just includes non-slip socks.

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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