How Do I Trim an Older Person's Toenails?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Is there a right way to trim the toenails of an older person at home?

Expert Answer

Jane Andersen, DPM, is a board-certified podiatrist in private practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She provides surgical and nonsurgical foot and ankle care to all types of patients, including the geriatric population in her area. With the American Podiatric Medical Association, she has worked to educate the public on foot and ankle health.

The best way to trim the toenails of an older adult at home is to trim them straight across, if possible. Rounding the edges encourages ingrown toenails. If the nails are thick, try soaking the feet in warm water prior to trimming.

A toenail clipper with a straight edge works well. Use an emery board to smooth rough edges.

If the nails prove difficult to trim or if the person has diabetes or vascular disease (which warrant regular inspection of feet because they're especially prone to infection and damage), the person should be seen and cared for every two or three months by a podiatrist or other physician.