My mother is 97 years old and has late-stage Alzheimer's. She can’t take care of herself and needs assistance with all her daily needs (can’t walk, talk, bathe or feed herself and is incontinent,) She gets upset and pulls back her hand when I try to cut her finger nails. Sometimes this results in an unintentional pinch to her finger which only exacerbates the situation. She won’t let me file them either. Does anyone have any tips on the best way to cut her nails?

Consider cutting while she is asleep.

I do this with my 5 year granddaughter who once got "pinched" with a nail clipper by the other grandma.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn

How did your mother care for her nails when she used to do them herself? Do you remember?

If I were doing this job (we're actually not allowed to cut nails, too much can go wrong) I'd start with a manicure, and possibly do my own first to show her what's happening. E.g. take a basin of warm water and let her soak her hands first, rest them on a fluffy towel, start with some nice hand cream and a little massage, and move gently on by stages. This will work better if she ever was the kind of person who went to salons or otherwise took the beauty business seriously.

But if someone just took your hand and set about cutting or filing your nails, you'd pull back too.

If she still won't let you, sanitizing hand wipes and a cotton bud under the nails are better than nothing.
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Reply to Countrymouse

Leave her fingernails alone unless they are causing her some kind of problem, like she's scratching herself in the face with them and bleeding. At this stage of disease, unless you use calming meds to sedate her, it doesn't sound like you'll be able to accomplish this task w/o hurting her. By all means, watch Teepa Snow to see if the hand under hand technique would work, but if not, I'd just leave her alone honestly. If there's a situation going on that demands her nails be trimmed, and if she's on hospice, ask the hospice nurse to do it after she gives her some Ativan or Xanax to sedate her with.

Here's a thread on this very subject from 2015 you may find helpful, IDK. I did not read all the responses myself.

Good luck!
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Reply to lealonnie1

My 95 yo mother doesn't like her nails clipped either.

However, she likes to "tap tap tap" on the table impatiently.
She will pick at her scalp and her face and make sore places

I just sit down with clippers and go at it and she'll just whine and fuss, which I ignore. If she tries to pull her hand back, I just keep gently taking hold of her finger.

Then I hand her a fingernail file and tell her to smooth out her nails, which she will do.

She doesn't get to run the show.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to southiebella

If you think it’s OK to try, I’ll share this, as it’s helped for me. I was having trouble cutting my toenails, particularly the bits of skin or nail that sometimes stick out and catch, but don’t go well with nail scissors or files. DH lent me his ‘electronic side-cutters’. They are not powered, the name is because they are used in electronics for cutting tiny wires, and they cut absolutely flush. I pull the flesh gently away from what I want to cut, and cut the little bit that’s sticking up – or across the nail if it all needs cutting. They cost about $10 in tool shop. Something tells me that they are quite probably what podiatrists use themselves!

I now have my own, and I got quite cross with DH for using them for years on himself (as well as in electronics), without telling me how useful they are. If you want to try, try on yourself first to get an idea of how close they cut, and be careful. In fact if I was cutting someone else’s nails, I would still have the basin of warm water, the nice soft towel, demonstrate on myself first, and probably just start with the nail that is being annoying. A good first try always helps!
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to MargaretMcKen
JoAnn29 Sep 22, 2022
Great idea. I have read that as we age our toenails get thicker and harder to cut. I do my DHs and have broken a clipper trying to go his.
Nurses, LPNs and CNAs/aides are not allowed to cut fingernails or toenails. For toenails you need to go to a podiatrist. Have no idea how fingernails get done when no one is allowed to do them. Oh, the aides will paint someones nails but don't think they file, but they may. I hated it when they did Moms nails, who never wore nail polish, because it would peal off and they didn't remove it. I brought in nail remover pads.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to JoAnn29

I do a full clean of mums nails and keep them to minimum because she has a habit of scratching all kinds of things, herself and dirty plates, surfaces etc. also she still wipes herself and at times “things” have got caught underneath her nails.
I soak, I cut, I clean underneath and then we apply moisturizer. Sometimes I also apply sanitizer first. The key with anything I do for Mum is to make it spa like. Whether it’s her hair, shower or nails.
And there are some better clippers out there than the rest.

I find it strange that nails are not done in care facilities. Reason being my late brother who had a disability would often get gunk underneath his nails, then he’d scratch a sore and the matter would get into his blood stream and cause infection. Few times he was in hospital for that.

I know now if I didn’t keep mums nails short, there’d most likely be fecal matter at some point getting in her blood stream as she’s always had allergies/itchy skin/sores.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Cappuccino42

Your mom is giving you the hard time because you are the primary caretaker.

Try to get her in to a manicurist. She may be better behaved with a new/different person.

If it works out with your budget, it may be useful to have a CNA come in to shower her and take care of her nails. Their training in working with ALZ patients is helpful.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to ACaringDaughter
caroli1 Oct 15, 2022
As others have pointed out, while the CNA could give the shower, unfortunately, it's not usually legal for them to trim nails. There may be differences in state laws regarding who can trim nails. In Missouri, my state, I've been told that CNAs can trim fingernails but not toenails. I haven't researched the regulations myself, though.
If you can do the nails after a bath when the nails are softer.
If that does not work then when she is asleep do a nail. Might take more than 1 day to do all her nails but they will eventually get done. Think of it as your Golden Gate Bridge. (I read once that they paint the bridge and when they start at one side by the time they get it all done it needs to be done again. Never ending....)
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Grandma1954

I wonder if Teepa Snow's hand under hand technique would be helpful 🤔

Here are a couple of videos giving you the basic idea
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Reply to cwillie

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