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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Does Medicare Cover Nail Care?

Can you recommend some solutions regarding nail trimming? My nails have gotten increasingly thicker over time and I struggle with using nail clippers.

Nail health can be an indicator of a person's overall health. If you have brittle, dull or discolored nails, you may want to speak with your primary care physician to rule out fungal infections or other systemic diseases.

Some Original Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage Part C members have coverage for medically necessary nail trimming and certain foot care services. Routine foot care is covered by Medicare if you have an underlying condition or injury that requires a professional to tend to your feet. You should ask your primary care physician to review your situation and, if appropriate, certify that your nail care should be handled by a podiatrist or other healthcare professional.

It is important to have a regular maintenance routine to keep nails short and free from infections. Trimming nails is a task that can become very challenging. For many adults, nails can become thicker and harder to cut over time. Nail clippers can be difficult to use if you have arthritis or mobility issues. It may be hard to maneuver into the right position to cut toenails depending on your flexibility. Fortunately, there are solutions available that can help.

Nail Care Tips

One of the simplest tips for cutting nails is to soak your nails in warm water prior to cutting them. This can be done in a bath or shower. The water is a cost-effective solution to soften them for easier cutting.

There are also nail softening creams that temporarily soften the nails. Simply rub the softening cream into your nails both in the morning and at night to make them easier to cut and file. This not only makes trimming easier but reduces cracked and jagged edges and is safe for those with diabetes.

Most nails grow at a moderate rate, so it is recommended to cut them every six to eight weeks. If your nails grow quickly, you should adjust the schedule to keep your nails at a good length. When cutting nails, be cautious not to cut too far down. Overaggressive trimming and cutting nails too short can lead to ingrown nails and discomfort. Podiatrists typically recommend leaving a very small bit of nail (about 1/32 inch) past the nail bed when trimming.

You should also avoid a rounded cut. It is best to cut nails straight across, ensuring that the corners of the nail do not cut into the skin. After cutting, use a nail file to smooth the jagged edges and corners that can snag and potentially tear the nail as it grows.

Types of Clippers

There are several medical-grade and specialty clippers recommended by professionals for older adults. For thick nails, it is best to use a clipper with a sharp and curved blade to easily cut through. Additionally, it may be helpful to find a nail clipper with a cushion grip to allow for comfortable clipping.

For those with limited flexibility, there are nail clippers available with long plastic grips which are much larger than a standard set of nail clippers and a blade head that swivels 180 degrees. By providing more control and an extended range, these features enhance accessibility for anyone with arthritis or mobility issues.

Lastly, for those who have a hard time bending over, there are long handled toenail clippers that come in various lengths including 20, 24, 28 and 32 inches. There are also heavy-duty clippers available with a 1/8-inch-wide jaw opening designed to cut thicker nails.

All of these types of nail clippers are available through online retail websites at prices ranging between $10 and $50. Be sure to take necessary care when clipping your nails at home. You may want to clean the clippers with rubbing alcohol or other cleaning solutions between uses.

Nail Trimming Services

If you have diabetes, limited vision or other health issues, you should consider finding a podiatrist that can provide care. If your healthcare professional deems it medically necessary, this may be covered by your health plan.

If you are generally in good health, you may be comfortable finding a reputable nail salon that can meet your needs for nail grooming. To find a suitable nail salon, you may want to ask trusted friends or family members for recommendations, visit the salon in person and or read online reviews. A standard nail salon service will include soaking, nail and cuticle trimming, under nail cleaning and exfoliation. You should also ask about sanitation and sterilization procedures to ensure you feel comfortable with their processes. You may also be allowed to bring your own nail clippers and other items to the service appointment.

While tending your nails at home is the least expensive option, nail salons generally cost less than visiting a podiatrist. Whichever option you choose, regular trimming can help you avoid serious problems in the future.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published May 26, 2023
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