Cutting Toenails: Elderly Foot Care

by Martha
(Jamestown NY USA)

How can elderly people easily cut their OWN toenails?

I'm worried about my mom's elderly foot care.

REPLY from
Thanks for this question, Martha. Elderly foot care can be challenging for many reasons.

Poor Flexibility
Often the elderly lose flexibility as they age, so being able to lift their feet up or bend down to their toes becomes difficult - or impossible.

Elderly Diseases or Elderly Health Problems
Diseases such as arthritis can make joints and bones stiff and can make an awkward position difficult, such as bringing your feet up for proper elderly foot care. Poor vision makes proper foot care hard.

Another factor that can make elderly foot care more difficult is that often the health of the skin and toes deteriorates with age.

Many seniors are at high risk for foot problems due to diseases such as elderly diabetes (easy to cause diabetic ulcer/ foot sore), peripheral vascular disease, ingrown toenails, fungal infections and/or thickened toenails.

Question: How can elderly cut their OWN toenails?
Regarding your question - how can elderly people cut their OWN toenails - well, the truthful answer is sometimes they can't.

Here are some tips to try before coming to that conclusion, though:
1. Try clipping toenails after a warm bath or soak as this softens toenails and makes them easier to cut
2. Try using a footstool so the elderly person can place their foot on that to cut their toenails. Make sure it is non-slip so they have a sturdy surface to work from.

Tools: Use with Caution
There are some tools that can be used, however, I haven't found the work particularly well and they should only be used for people with healthy feet and without elderly diseases such as elderly diabetes or difficulty with circulation.

There are long-handled toenail scissors and long-handled clippers. There are also toenail clippers attached to a heavy base.

I again caution using these aids as they require good eyesight and good general foot health. If you think your elderly parent will be safe using one of these tools, they should follow up elderly foot care with a good check of their foot with a long-handled mirror.

They should be looking for any cracks, cuts, ingrown toenails or other problems. If any of these are noticed, they should see their doctor right away.

Elderly foot care should be taken seriously as poor foot care can lead to problems such as gangrene or amputation (particularly in elderly diabetes or peripheral vascular disease).

Consider Paid Help
If you try these techniques and find your elderly loved one is still not able to cut their own toenails, you could consider a health care professional who specializes in this type of care.

If you can't afford this, you may be able to hire someone privately to do this care but be sure to run them through the steps of how to provide proper elderly foot care.

For more information, Elderly Foot Care.

Thank you,

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