> MOBILITY: Many elderly clients are challenged by physical disabilities and lack of flexibility. “We see a lot of elderly clients with hip and knee replacements and back problems,” says Tricia Turner of Senior Feet, a salon that specializes in elderly foot care in Virginia Beach, Va. “We accommodate them by making sure there are no obstacles in the area that might cause them to fall. We also assist them when they are sitting or getting up from the pedicure chair, which is stable and comfortable. We don’t have pedicure thrones because they’re too difficult for elderly clients to get in and out of. We’re also set up to do pedicures if a client is in a wheelchair.” As a result of lack of mobility and flexibility, elderly clients often can’t reach their own feet to perform even routine nail care. “Their toenails get very long and painful,” says Turner.

> DECREASED NERVE FEELING (NEUROPATHY) OR DECREASED BLOOD FLOW (PERIPHERAL VASCULAR DISEASE): The elderly often have circulation issues, sometimes as a result of diabetes, which can cause numbness. This is dangerous because elderly clients may not feel if you are using too much pressure or soaking their feet in water that’s too hot. Many also sustain cuts or wounds that they are unaware of. Be sure to use warm — not hot —water for footbaths and use gentle pressure when performing massage. “We always do a very thorough foot exam before beginning any service,” says Turner. “It’s not unusual to find cracks between the toes. When we find something, we suggest they wait a week or two until it clears up.”

> DRY/BRITTLE NAILS: There are a number of age-related nail changes to be aware of including dryness, thickening, and ridging. In the elderly, the water content in the nails decreases, which causes brittle, splitting nails. To help remedy this, moisture is key. Turner uses all-natural products on her senior clients that include nourishing ingredients like aloe and vitamin C. Nails also grow more slowly in the elderly, and this can result in fungus being able to enter the nails more readily. “We find fungus fairly regularly,” Turner says. “When we do, we refer the client to a podiatrist. It’s very important to build a relationship with one or two podiatrists you can refer your clients to. With elderly clients, you’re not only their nail tech, you’re also their health advocate.”

The Elderly Client’s Rx
Here are some tips on performing nail services on elderly clients:
> Elderly clients move more slowly. Schedule a little extra time and slow down during your client’s appointment.
> Never make her feel anxious or rushed; match her pace.
> Be sure your service area is arranged to accommodate and reassure your elderly clients.
> Stand up and assist elderly clients as they sit and also rise from the manicure or pedicure chair.
> Place pillows on the back of the manicure or pedicure chair.
> Perform a thorough foot exam before performing a pedicure. Look for cuts between the toes.
> Perform the massage using a gentle, slow touch.
> Avoid abrasive scrubs and exfoliants.
> Use products that contain ingredients to enhance moisture and circulation, such as vitamin E and tea tree oil.
> Use heat to alleviate arthritis: Wrap hands and feet in warm towels and/or suggest paraffin treatments.

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