Your fingernails and toenails change as you age. They can become brittle and are prone to infections, and if you combine these issues with dexterity problems, maintaining a proper hygiene routine becomes a chore.
In this guide, we’ll look at the problems that seniors face with their fingernails and toenails and will highlight the very best clippers aimed at senior users.
Common Nail Problems in the Elderly
Fingernails and toenails are made of a substance known as keratin, which is also found in your hair and internal organs. They grow several millimeters a month and as you age, they are more prone to damage and infections.
The nails that you see are dead, but the areas underneath and at the root of the nail are very much alive and are loaded with nerve endings. This is why you can feel the pressure when you cut or tear your nails, and why it hurts when you go a little too deep.
Improper nail care can cause a host of problems, many of which are more common in the elderly, including:
Brittle and Thick
Your nails become brittle as you age, and it can worsen if you suffer from iron deficiency or hypothyroidism. However, your fingernails tend to react differently from your toenails, becoming thinner and weaker while your toenails become much thicker.
Using a moisturizer on your feet, toes, hands, fingers, and nails at least once a day may help to keep your nails healthy.
If you have a habit of “picking” or “biting” your nails, you’ll know how painful it can be when those nails split or you pick/bite too far. The skin becomes exposed and you feel sharp and constant pain. It’s an issue that occurs amongst all age groups, but with younger people it’s often self-inflicted or caused by trauma. In seniors, though, it can occur during everyday activities.
As noted above, your nails are very brittle and this means they are more prone to splitting, breaking, and causing a host of problems.
They Change Shape
Toenails can curve as you age, and this increases the risk of developing ingrown toenails.
There are a few things at play here. Firstly, thicker and more brittle nails have less flexibility and are much more rigid, potentially causing more damage as they are pushed into your skin. Secondly, all those years of wearing tight and ill-fitting shoes can catch up with you and change the shape of your toes, as well as your nails.
One of the most common conditions affecting seniors is something known as elderly fungal nail infection. It occurs when fungal spores attach themselves to the nail and begin to grow and spread.
When toenails are brittle, they have more cracks for the fungus to attach itself. The body also loses its ability to fight these infections as blood flow is reduced and the immune system is affected.
To prevent fungal nail infection, cover your feet in public areas and adopt a strict daily hygiene routine.
Benefits of Regular Trimming
The main benefit of maintaining a regular trimming routine is that it reduces the risk of fungal nail infections and ingrown toenails, while also preventing breaks, splits, and other potentially painful problems.
However, it can also reduce the risk of food poisoning.
Your fingernails are a haven for bacteria. When you do your daily weeding or use the toilet, bacteria can work its way underneath your nails and may be missed when you wash your hands.
The longer those nails are, the greater the risk that the bacteria will be overlooked. And if you prepare a meal with all that nasty bacteria under your fingernails, it will get into your food.
By trimming your nails, you’ll reduce this risk, although it’s still important to wash your hands thoroughly every time you use the toilet and before you prepare and eat food.
How do Senior Fingernail and Toenail Clippers Differ?
Generic clippers tend to be very small and fiddly. They’re also weak and have a very low clearance, which means they’re useless if you’re cutting thick and wide nails.
They work with fingernails, but toenails are a different breed when it comes to elderly individuals and these basic clippers are just not good enough. Nail clippers targeted toward elderly users will provide some or all of the following features:
- Strength: They shouldn’t feel flimsy or like they will break if you press too hard. They should be strong, durable, and able to withstand a lot of pressure.
- Large: Dainty clippers won’t suffice for someone who has thick/large nails and a weak grip. They can be fiddly to use and while they might get the job done eventually, it’s often at the expense of a lot of frustration and hassle. Nail clippers for seniors tend to be bigger, bulkier, and easier to grip.
- Stable: It’s not uncommon for nail clippers to slip when you’re using them. If you don’t have dexterity problems or thick nails to trim then it’s not much of a problem, but imagine what will happen if they slip when you’re applying a lot of pressure and have a thick nail wedged between them!
- Ease of Use: Nail clippers for elderly users should be easy to grip and use and they should also be easy to clean. After all, they need to be used regularly so the simpler this process is, the less of a chore it becomes and the more likely you are to commit.
The Best Fingernail and Toenail Clippers for the Elderly
What follows is a list of the best nail clippers you can buy right now on Amazon. We’ve used Amazon simply because it has a great variety of products and while it’s not always the most reliable when it comes to generic products, you have nothing to worry about here. In addition, you can read user reviews and see what other customers have to say before committing to a purchase.
Before we begin, we should note that while there are “easy reach” toenail clippers out there that, theoretically, can be used by individuals with mobility issues and back problems, we couldn’t find any that we would recommend.
These devices are basically standard clippers attached to poles. The idea is that you pull a lever on the pole, it activates the clippers, and it chops your nails. But where hard and thick nails are concerned, the pressure required is often too great to work at a distance or with the simple clippers used.
Healthy Seniors Complete Nail and Toenail Clipper Set
Available for around $20 at the time of writing, this is arguably the best product in this category. It features a professional toenail clipper, which has thick, easy-grip handles and super-strong clippers. If this is not quite what you’re looking for, it also has a wide-jaw clipper and a rotating clipper.
In addition, the pack comes with a nail file, an instruction guide, and a neat little carry bag for easy storage.
Kohn Wide-Jaw Heavy Duty Clippers
A simple but strong set of wide-jaw clippers made from a thick-coated alloy, making them strong but lightweight. The lever is designed to reduce the need for pressure, and the cutter is large enough to fit most nail sizes.
Helix Naturals Long-Handled Toenail Scissors
If you find that you can’t use clippers and prefer simple scissors, take a look at this product. It’s available for around $10 and features easy-grip handles and angled blades, designed to help you trim your toenails.
You will still need to bend over and some mobility is required, but it’s okay if you can’t bend all the way as the scissors will cover the final few inches for you.
What About Electric Nail Clippers?
Electric nail clippers claim to take the hassle out of trimming your nails. Just stick your finger or toe in the gap and let the pocket-sized device do its thing.
They sound like the ideal product and they relatively inexpensive, but there’s a reason we didn’t include them on our list.
Electric clippers can have their uses, but those uses tend to be limited to thin fingernails and not thick, wide, and curved toenails. They can make a mess of the nail and leave you with more trimming and cleaning-up to do.
We wouldn’t recommend them. Generally speaking, seniors’ nails grow much slower and, as a result, don’t need to be trimmed that often. If you have a good pair of clippers, such as the ones outlined above, the job will be over in no time. It’s not something that needs to be made more convenient, so just stick with the basics.