Toeing the Line

Quick Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Grooming Edition

When my mother was still at the nursing/rehab facility the week before Christmas, they had a big party for all the residents. 

I wasn’t aware of the festivities because my brother (“What’s-his-name,” as my mother now calls him) was down from Colorado to see her and I hadn’t been by the home for a few days, mainly to let him get the full brunt of her focus for a change. 

I’m not dumb.

I was surprised to find, a day or so later, that my mother’s fingernails had been professionally done.  They were all filed and painted a pretty, deep red and the ring fingernail of each hand sported a decorative design. 

She said they had taken her to the beauty salon room the day of the party and did her nails, hair and even makeup for the Christmas big wing-ding. 

I’d noticed that her fingernails had been getting kind of long and ragged looking, so I was glad that she’d had that attention.  But it was her toenails that had caused me the most concern.

I hadn’t really had occasion to see her feet sans socks for quite some time and I have to say that when I did see them in the nursing home recently, I was pretty taken aback.  It was quite apparent that she hadn’t cut her toenails since maybe Kate Gosselin went on her pretend camping trip with Sarah Palin.

My mother was about to be transferred to her new digs at the “Hotel,” so when we saw her physician prior to the move I asked if someone would cut her toenails for her.  Please. 

Apparently, and probably with good reason, nobody wants to do that, so the job is referred out to a podiatrist. 

(Now, I was a dental hygienist for over 20 years and I have to say I’d rather muck about in people’s dirty mouths than fiddle around with their feet. )

Brief digression: 

When I was in college before getting accepted into the dental hygiene program, I attended some classes with pre-RN nursing students, many of whom already had been LVNs and had experience in the medical field.  When they found out a group of us were applying to the hygiene program, they told us they would rather “wipe a poopy bottom” than have to clean someone’s teeth.  To each her own, I guess.

Anyway, the doctor told us that there were two podiatrists in town:  one who made “house calls” to the nursing homes and one who didn’t.  Naturally, I asked for the one who would come to the Hotel and do the deed.

But several days after her move, the nurse at the Hotel called and said my mother had an appointment Jan. 5th with the one who didn’t make house calls.  Whatever.

So yesterday when I was walking from the parking lot into the Hotel, a man carrying a medical bag passed me on his way out.  It immediately struck me that this must be the “house call guy.” 

I have never personally encountered a doctor actually carrying a “little black bag.”  I always thought that was just on TV, like in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

When I opened the door to my mother’s room I found her sitting in one of the lovely chairs we’d brought from her house, leaning over and picking up something off of the carpet.

It was toenail clippings.

She was surrounded with them.  It reminded me of when we used to get our old pony’s hooves trimmed by the local farrier.

I helped her pick up the detritus and was grateful that the doctor had saved us (by us, I mean me) the trouble of another doctor’s visit and all that entails.

I’m just glad she didn’t get this look for her Christmas party:

17 thoughts on “Toeing the Line

  1. Gulp. Toenails are a perennial problem in residential facilities for the aged. I seriously dread that part when it’s my turn to gross someone out. It must be so hard to have been a fastidious person and have runaway nails and hair that one can no longer take care of.

    BTW, I was so pleased with your title. Today on the Washington Post, I read an article that referred to “towing the line.” I couldn’t let that pass; I had to get a Twitter address and let the writer know the correct phrase. There are some odd consequences of the all-pro military, one of which is that only a small percentage of the 20-35 cohort has ever had to toe a line.


    • Bravo to you for not letting the Washington Post get by with slipshod editing. I’ve done that myself with the NYTimes. I’m always amazed when stuff like that gets by. I think people are so used to hearing those sayings but haven’t a clue about what they actually mean or how they are written. It’s important, people!


  2. Oh my, what a great post! So glad your Mom’s toesies got trimmed. That’s a job I would NEVER want. It must be difficult going through all this crap with your mother but you always write about it with grace and humour.

    By the way, you would have loved me as a patient. I brush at least twice a day, often thrice, and I floss every day. I see my hygienist for cleanings every six months. No cavitiies in over 20 years. 🙂 I even make sure I clean my tongue before before I visit Marie-France (my hygienist.) I wouldn’t want her job OR the podiatrist’s! I’d rather clean poopy chicken butts any day!!


  3. Hi,
    Yes it must be very hard to get the every day things done in these places, but it is good to hear that there are still professional people that will take the time to actually go and do whatever needs to be done.

    The photo of the toenails is unreal, I mean that has to be very uncomfortable, you would have to make sure when walking that you left enough space in front of you for the nails. 🙂


  4. Watch your Medicare Summary Notice. You will not believe what my mother has been charged to have her toenails trimmed by a podiatrist! Outrageous.
    Recently, I had Mother’s oxygen tank removed from her facility. She had not used it since June, however, the Medicare supply company never came to pick the thing up, even after calling them and leaving messages. However, after a couple of months, I received her Medicare summary notice – $600 smackers for the machine plus $125 for oxygen per month (which she never used) and it was backdated for several months! Their excuse for not picking up the machine – “oh, didn’t anyone tell you, we needed a doctor’s release to do that.” and in the meantime we will just rip you off….Happy New Year!


  5. This was enlightening. Something else to dread in the years ahead. Plus, I’m extremely ticklish whenever anyone touches my feet. I assume your mother did not behave like a goofball when the podiatrist cut her nails. Glad he was available to do the job.


  6. oh, i remember this… the first time i saw Mom’s toes (before podiatry visits) i about choked, thinking i was going to have to take that on… thankful that a friend said “oh, no! get her to a podiatrist!”

    i am always amazed at the docs… they spend how many years and how much money in med school, then specialize in feet?!?! guess it’s better than proctology.


  7. There’s something about the thought of toenail maintainence on another person’s foot that makes me gag. I’m very happy to pay $40 a month (from my aunt’s account) for the podiatrist that comes to the assisted living facility each month.


    • Yeah, I was surprised too. After he’d driven all the way down from Colorado to see her, she said “What’s-his-name and his wife were here yesterday.” I said “You mean your SON, T**??” It didn’t seem to faze her though.


  8. I don’t get manicures, but in the last few years, I’ve found that a pedicure is sooo nice! Usually I wait until the skin on my heels is shredding the sheets before I go. The last two times I’ve been, however, there has been a guy there getting pedicure. Different guys but both of them used the time to yak on cellphones. It just isn’t the same experience when you’re sitting next to some hairy guy with toenails requiring bypass pruners.

    That foot picture is SO GROSS! Yech! I’ve seen fingernails like that, however, most notably keyboarding my info into a computer at the DMV several years ago. Her nails curled like ribbon. Maybe she was going to file a workers’ comp claim for being cosmetically challenged.


  9. Yes, my mom’s feet are horrendous. We got her in for a pedicure, now she needs another. I had my first pedi/manicure when we went in for her. I can so appreciate your elderground posts. My sister has recently been placed in the doghouse (she did not invite any family members to her wedding) and will be there for quite some time, I think. My husband is the true saint though—he figured out why her cable wasn’t working.


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