Constant picking at nails/rag nails

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by duffy2, Sep 19, 2018.

  1. duffy2

    duffy2 New member

    Aug 26, 2018
    6
    Hello,

    Does anyone have any advice or tips on what to do about my mother's habit? She pretty much constantly picks at her nails/rag nails around them/cuticles until they bleed. Often the bleeding is quite bad and the skin she picks at it pulled down her fingers quite a bit. This means she usually has open sores around her fingers. If any sores have the chance to try to heal, she simply picks the scab off and the cycle continues. Her little dog is always licking her hands and fingers and nothing stops her allowing this - no reasoning is accepted at all.

    We got a twiddle muff and it goes unused. She actually becomes quite 'huffy' when I say it's best if she tries to stop, or at least try to not let the dog lick her wounds to prevent infection (her personal care is another issue she refuses to address, e.g insists she doesn't need to wash/change clothes, etc).

    Myself and my father are at our wits end over what to do. I've flagged it numerous times with the medics, they just aren't too bothered and offer no help, other than an antibiotic cream should she develop infection!

    Recently we were out at a café and the picking was continuing. I asked her to stop and she became quite annoyed with me and told me off. Her face was wincing in pain as she picked, but she wouldn't stop. My little girl was with us and she was becoming increasingly upset watching this, begging her granny to stop and being firmly told 'no'. It was so difficult. The memory will stay with her unfortunately.

    To summarise, no distraction techniques appear to work. No reasoning works. No 'white lies' work. The GP is not interested in preventative measures, rather just treatment for infection. It's just very upsetting all round and I'm hoping other members can relate, if not offer support.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Duggies-girl

    Duggies-girl Registered User

    Sep 6, 2017
    1,487
    I have no help for you but I can sympathise with you. My dad scratches his fingers and his hands all the time. He doesn't create damage but I find the concentration on his face when he is scratching quite disturbing.

    He is completely absorbed in it and nothing I can do seems to stop him. It drives me nuts to be honest.

    I am sure that you will get some other replies soon.
     
  3. looviloo

    looviloo Registered User

    May 3, 2015
    464
    Female
    Cheshire
    Sounds horrible and it must have been a especially difficult to have your little girl witness it.

    I don't have solution unfortunately, but my dad displays some similar behaviours. He takes warfarin and bruises/scratches very easily. He picks a lot at any scabs, usually his hands and face, and causes them to bleed repeatedly. It must hurt him but he doesn't seem to feel it! Any effort to stop him is met with 'No!' or a rather sinister smile. His care home have started placing large dressings over the affected areas, that are firmly stuck down. This helps to take his mind off the scabs, for a while anyway.

    Of course, you can't do this with your mum's fingers. How about gloves? Or treating her to a manicure (at home, perhaps) to try to break the cycle? It must be a hard thing to watch :(
     
  4. TheBearsMummy

    TheBearsMummy Registered User

    Sep 29, 2017
    101
    East Midlands
    I wonder if the plastic skin (can't remember what it's called) that you can spray or paint onto burns might help. If nothing else it might give some protection from infection and will be a layer to pick at before she reaches real skin
     
  5. DeMartin

    DeMartin Registered User

    Jul 4, 2017
    711
    Kent
    To stop the dog licking, I had cats that chewed electric cables, one application of Tabasco sauce to the cable stopped that.
    Due you remember bitter allow (spelling suspect) that our mothers used on us, well mine did, to stop nail biting, it may discourage dog licking.
    As above poster...Plastic skin , takes ages to pick off.
     
  6. karaokePete

    karaokePete Registered User

    Jul 23, 2017
    4,897
    N Ireland
    My wife is also a scratcher and she is doing painful damage to herself.

    I have tried all I can think of and at times I have her covered in so many dressings that she looks like something out of the mummy's tomb. I have been to the GP twice already and she is presently on a course of antihistamines to stop the itch cycle with the scabs. The next thing the GP suggested was a referral to a dermatologist (something that was also suggested by her CPN). We have the third GP appointment next week. Creams and an increase of her anxiety meds only worked for a few days.

    I have resorted to keeping her nails short, putting gloves on her at night and watching her like a hawk while I'm awake. It's a difficult problem as she denies that she has an itch and even denies scratching and picking at herself. She has the look of a naughty child who has just been rumbled when I catch her in the act! Oh the fun and games.
     
  7. karaokePete

    karaokePete Registered User

    Jul 23, 2017
    4,897
    N Ireland
    I've just seen the posts about new skin. I tried that with my wife and she just pulled that off, taking a bigger layer of skin with it. However, I agree it's worth a try.
     
  8. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    10,242
    Female
    South coast
    This is very interesting as OH scratches his face/chin until it bleeds - Im forever trying to get blood out of the pillowcases. Where can you buy plastic skin?
     
  9. karaokePete

    karaokePete Registered User

    Jul 23, 2017
    4,897
    N Ireland
    Hi @canary, I got it at Boots.
     
  10. TheBearsMummy

    TheBearsMummy Registered User

    Sep 29, 2017
    101
    East Midlands
    Another thought, have you tried painting her nails if she will let you? I'm thinking perhaps she would pick the nail varnish off instead
     
  11. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    10,242
    Female
    South coast
    Thanks Pete. So simple I never thought of it
    xx
     
  12. witts1973

    witts1973 Registered User

    Jun 20, 2018
    671
    Male
    Leamington Spa
    I purchased a fidget blanket from Ebay,I have a couple of them,I'm not saying it will eradicate the nail problem but it may keep the hands active for a while
     
  13. jknight

    jknight Registered User

    Oct 23, 2015
    786
    Hampshire
    Mum is also a scratcher. Upper arms, shoulders and both legs (her chair is covered in blood stains) I am sure it is habit and there is no itch (mindless picking rather than the more urgent scratching of an itch) even if a cream was prescribed, mum would be resistant (I've just put it on/I'll do it later) There is no way she would let anyone help (least of all, me)
     
  14. duffy2

    duffy2 New member

    Aug 26, 2018
    6
    Thank you for all the replies and tips. It's really helpful to hear how other people cope (or not, as often is the case!) because it means I'm not going completely mad with frustration!

    The gloves idea wouldn't work as she completely refuses. I tried the professional manicure approach - a gel polish that last about 6 weeks was applied and 24 hrs later my mum said it looked so nice that she didn't want to pick. A result, or so I thought, as another 24hrs passed and she managed to pick every last dot of polish off and start picking her skin again. And this polish usually requires professional removal!!

    She takes the Donepezil, but hasn't been prescribed any medication for anxiety (although takes Citalopram and the GP says that should be enough for her). He does not want to give her anything else.

    She has a review appointment with the Memory Clinic next week and - again - I will highlight this to them for help/support. I don't hold out much hope for anything as it's a different doctor each time we visit who asks me to start from the beginning each time as they're 'not familiar' with her case. I despair sometimes.

    Factor in my mother's refusal to wash and/or shower, and I worry that it won't be her condition that gets the better of her, but infection.

    Thanks again, everyone. I really do appreciate every response made and wish I could reply to each one of you. I hear what you're saying and know we're all fighting our own struggles, but hope we can give one another some strength and a listening ear to help.
     

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