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How Does One Stop an Alzheimer's Patient From Biting Her Fingernails?


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Old 02-16-2015, 06:09 PM   #1
SMike
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How Does One Stop an Alzheimer's Patient From Biting Her Fingernails?

Anyone here have suggestions as to how to keep an Alzheimer's patient from biting her fingernails? My mother is in the advanced stage of the disease and lives with us. She bites her nails almost constantly and we are continually trying to get her to stop. Putting a foul-tasting substance on her nails did not work. Distracting her by talking or handing her something to fidget with only works for a few minutes. It seems there should surely be some solution for this; has anyone here been successful solving this problem?

 
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Old 02-16-2015, 07:17 PM   #2
Titchou
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Re: How Does One Stop an Alzheimer's Patient From Biting Her Fingernails?

Perhaps if you post on the Alzheimer's board someone will have an idea. In the absence of that, have you talked with her doctor about an anti- anxiety med?

 
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Old 02-17-2015, 12:08 AM   #3
Gabriel
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Re: How Does One Stop an Alzheimer's Patient From Biting Her Fingernails?

SMike, my first question... is this a huge problem? Unless she is biting them until they bleed or become infected I would just let it be. Mom would chew on her nails, probably a result of anxiety, but it was never a huge problem. Evidently, she found something soothing in that behavior. So I just let it be.

Taste is affected by Alzheimer's so what taste bad to us might be non-tasting to her. Since their perception of taste is different, this may explain why nail coatings didn't work.

Keeping her busy with her hands and distraction work in the moment but not long if she is obsessed with nail biting. Know it is a phase and will pass... and could be a lot worse

Obsessions and repeated actions are typical. The inability to change focus and the love of routine lead to repeated behaviors. Mom went through a number of obsessive phases where she repeated a behavior over and over. Early in the disease it was washing windows. There were 23 windows in her house and she would frequently wash them, sometimes several times a week! Nothing we could do would deter her. One day she just stopped washing them. Later she would pick through the pine straw in the flower beds to remove leaves and other debris and fluff it up. She did this for weeks and weeks... many hours each day. Then I noticed she had not been outside and never noticed the pine straw again. Later she did chew not only her fingernails but also her toenails!! I just made sure her hands and feet were clean and as I expected this behavior also vanished. Even later in the disease she walked. She would walk day and night, for hours and hours. You could sit her down or put her in bed and she was up walking in minutes. We started feeding her finger foods she could take with her on her walks because she would not sit at the table. Then one day she sat down and never got up again. None of this was harmful to her and seems to reduce her anxiety. Trying to stop the behavior was distressing. I realized that it seemed bizarre to me, but it was where she was in her disease, and I let it be.

Love, deb

 
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