Nail Care for Seniors
The aging process changes every part of our bodies, which necessarily includes our finger and toenails. Over time as we age, our nails will get thicker and harder, take longer to grow, and become dull in appearance and brittle in texture. The appearance of our nails can also change as well, where in youth they may have had a clear or shiny appearance, they may become more yellow colored and opaque.
For seniors, as though having duller, yellowed and more fragile nails wasn’t enough to deal with, older adults are also unfortunately more prone to developing fungal infections on or near their nail beds. This happens especially frequently on the toenails of elderly adults, who are often advised to wear socks and shoes around the house to protect their feet and reduce the likelihood of falls. The drawback to this is that keeping your feet cooped up all day in socks and shoes creates a warm and damp environment, which are the ideal conditions for fungus to flourish and spread.
You may think that the health and appearance of fingernails and toenails are a concern that isn’t worth spending time and effort worrying about, but you’d be surprised. Maintaining clean and healthy nails can boost your level of comfort and contribute overall to your quality of life. Seniors are frequently susceptible to fungal infections that take root in the skin under the nails, known as the nail bed. These infections don’t only look unattractive, but they can cause pain as well. And with so many seniors suffering from depression or other emotional health issues, it simply feels great and boosts your mood to be well-groomed. Senior citizens’ nails demand additional care and attention from caregivers.
Cutting nails may appear to be a simple affair, but it is important to learn and follow several key procedures to maintain a good cut. The selection of a nail cutting tool is important here. Use fingernail clippers or scissors meant for fingernails, and toenail clippers for toenails. Make sure to regularly clean tools as well, as bacteria and dirt can collect on them. At least once a month, scrub them out and soak them in a dish of 70 to 90 percent isopropyl alcohol to disinfect them. Rinse them thoroughly with hot water and air dry them completely before storing them away.
Always cut nails perpendicular to the nail, or straight across. Cutting them in a curved path may cause ingrown nails which can cause pain and discomfort. Toenails will need to be cut less frequently than fingernails as they grow more slowly. Use an emery board or nail file to smooth rough edges which can cause damage to the thinner skin of seniors, and always file in the same direction to prevent weakening or beveling nails.
Make sure to leave the cuticles alone. Avoid pushing them back or cutting them away because cuticles shield the nail bed from damage. Breaks in cuticles form pathways for bacteria and other pathogens to better access skin, increasing risk of illness or infection.