Hi.. and possibly a new hygiene question?

flying lotus

Registered User
May 26, 2008
Hello everyone,

after a year of visiting and reading posts on this forum, though not commenting, I'd like to say hello.

Firstly, a quick intro. I am the main carer for my grandfather who, I believe, has dementia. I live in his house. Though he's never been diagnosed (his offspring will not take him to be diagnosed, ignoring my requests, they say it's "Old age only, it will happen to us all..") he shows the usual symptoms of not knowing what year it is, not remembering anything that happened that day, week, last minute, but FANTASTIC memory for events that happened 10 years plus ago, general hygiene neglect, over eating (a preference for junk if made available), and never leaving the house, generally not doing anything unless highly supervised, such as washing hands, taking tablets. Leaves fire on full blast with the windows open. Things amongst others. I think that's dementia, or am I wrong? Open to suggestion here!

I'd also like to say, this forum has been great for helping me realise I'm not alone in caring for someone with dementia. The times I've come on here after being told "It's old age" - well you've all helped me calm down and de-stress! Brick wall and head?! Thank you :)

OK, so this may sound like a petty and daft question, but... he's taken to cleaning his fingernails out with forks. Coming home after working and finding forks all over the house, when his nails are clean... what do I do? He was using biro pens to do this, but then I put those somewhere else, and made a fingernail scrubbing brush clearly available at the sinks, which he seems to refuse to use. He seems to be obsessed with using forks, and chucks out a sign in the drawer which says "Please don't use forks to clean your fingernails, there's a scrubbing brush" etc...

Like I say, I know it sounds petty, but any advice? Perhaps I shouldn't be concerned, the rest of his family aren't.

Once again, thanks!


Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
Hi and welcome to Talking Point.

Firstly I should probably say, up front, that it is my opinion that "old age" is not a reason for the sort of memory loss that you describe. It may be due to health issues that arise in old age, but that's not the same thing at all. Also it may not be possible to treat it, but again, that doesn't mean that "old age" is a valid diagnosis. I went through this with my own mother's GP and it turned out that she had had a stroke. Doesn't help you much I know.

As to the fork issue - you've reminded me that my mother used to tear corners of letters and envelopes to remove things stuck between her teeth, and I never had any success in persuading her not to. All I can suggest is, getting forks with tines that are too large to be used as nail cleaning implements: in other words I doubt that notices or persuasion is going to be effective.

flying lotus

Registered User
May 26, 2008
Hi Jenniferpa,

Thanks for replying. Yeah, I tried that today - I sorted through the forks, and left the ones that had the biggest prongs (I couldn't clean my nails with them, I did try, ha!) but alas, he's still using them. Guess this is another thing to live with. :rolleyes:

I think he had a mini, or "TIA" stroke a few years ago, and I did try to tell the family this, but as, at the time of me suspecting him having it, he had also been drinking from the spirits/liquor cabinet, it could have been due to alcohol. Though he is a hardened drinker, and so his marked unsteadiness on feet, stumbling, over emotionallity (is that a word?!) and slight droopiness on one side of the face, did seem uncharacteristic. The doctor suspected a TIA afterwards, but as usual, family played it down and blamed alcohol. Which it could well have been, but..

Thanks again for replying - like you say, leaving notices and using persuasion isn't going to work, will keep my eye out for super sized fork prongs :p

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
Hello Flying Lotus

Could you put the forks somewhere else, on the top shelf of a cupboard for example, or wrapped in a tea towel in a drawer. Then you will be able to get them out as you need them.

Canadian Joanne

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 8, 2005
Toronto, Canada
On the bright side....

at least he's cleaning his nails. Personally, I think I would just gather up the forks & soak them in hot soapy water with a bit of bleach. That would take care of just about anything, I think. He will stop at some point in time.

I only say this because my mother went through a phase where she refused to wash much at all & she was also enjoying a good old scratch & rummage in her underpants.:eek::eek: You should have seen the state of her nails!! I had such a hard time getting them clean.

flying lotus

Registered User
May 26, 2008
new cutlery maybe?

Hi all,

Good suggestion Grannie G - I think I will have to do this.

Canadian Joanne - yes, I'm pleased to a certain extent that he is still aware of keeping clean - but he's been using biros/forks to clean his nails for around four months now, and if they're not available then he's hunting around for scissors and sharp knives. He doesn't wash his hands after using the toilet, and similar to your mother, has hands everywhere when he thinks no one is looking. :eek: He showers once a week, and that's with the bribery of chips from two rotating, visiting, family members. :rolleyes: Otherwise it's protestations of "I wash everyday!" which I could argue otherwise about, as I do live here and know what goes on, but as I know by now, is useless doing because my point will be forgotten in the next breath, and certainly by the time I leave the room.

However, I do think I spy a possible solution in childrens' cutlery. A store near me sells round tipped forks, which I'm going to look at tomorrow after work. :eek: will let you know how it goes :)


Registered User
Sep 27, 2006
Give him some toothpicks. They are great for getting the 'muck' out from fingernails. I use them when I've been gardening (can't garden in gloves). You sound as though you are doing a great job with your grandad. I'm sure without you living with him and supervising him so closely, the family would soon learn that his problems are more than general old age.



Registered User
Jul 7, 2007
Hi there,

Why not buy a set of forks specially for the fingernail cleaning (or eating) - then you can hide away the ones you normally use for eating.

Might cause less hassle than trying to stop him:eek:


flying lotus

Registered User
May 26, 2008
equipment at the ready!

Hi everyone..

Thanks Tina T, I hadn't thought of toothpicks.. will try those if he somehow manages to clean his nails with the childrens' forks I bought today. Right now, there's two in the cutlery drawer, so it'll be interesting to see what happens! *Mentally puts on a mad scientist's white coat and awaits with a clipboard and pen, ha ha* :p

Thanks for the compliment too - when I've occasionally been on holiday I've either come back to find him having ended up in hospital, or not being given his medication, so it seems that even when I'm not around, the whole "Denial of dementia" thing still abounds with the family. :confused: but after years of this, clearly beliefs are unlikely to alter.

Thanks to Germain as well - I'm keeping the other forks in a different cupboard in the kitchen, though I'm keeping all your suggestions in mind. As seems to be the theme with all of us, adaptivity and compromise seem to be the ideas to run with.

Will keep you posted. Thanks again everyone :eek:


Registered User
Aug 20, 2006
Set aside a fork or two for nail cleaning and leave them prominently on display. Hide the rest. You could get some with different coloured handles, or put some coloured tape around the ones you don't want to use as forks again.

There's no point in trying reason or persuasion. They won't work, as someone with dementia is absolutely convinced they are right no matter how obviously and ridiculously wrong they are, and will cling to their position like a limpet. Partially out of fear that admitting they are wrong will mean admitting there is something wrong with them I think. Or alternatively, if by some miracle you do persuage them, it will be forgotten and their brain will slip back into it's old grooves.

It's just a waste of energy trying to "correct" someone with dementia. Better to just try to accomodate stuff like this. Using forks to clean nails is really just a minor unpleasantness and there could be much worse things.

If I were you I'd just do the above and then ignore the behavior.

flying lotus

Registered User
May 26, 2008

Thanks Nebiroth for the advice and replying. It seems for the moment, the new cutlery is unable to clean his nails, and I have seen him looking at the scrubbing brush at the side of the sink. I know, it is a fairly minor thing but he seems to clean his nails and eat with the fork after doing so, and as he rarely washes his hands after going to the loo, I wasn't keen him chancing on eating what was left on the fork prongs. I think it's just a repetitive behaviour that's developed, because whenever I'm home I make sure he does wash after visiting the W.C., so his nails are generally pretty clean. It's just the times when I'm working.

However, I'd like to say thanks again to everyone who's replied - you came up with some ideas I hadn't, and thanks again for the words of support. Take care everyone :D


Registered User
Sep 19, 2007
I shouldn't laugh, but Canadian Joanne you cracked me up with your tale of scratching in unsavoury places. I laughed because it rang so true. I was cleaning my laddo's finger nails which were dreadful and I asked him where or earth he had had them. As I did each nail he told me what it had been scratching or what he had been doing with it until I got to the last one and he said, 'I am not telling you where that one has been'. So just 9 clean nails then!!!

love from Sammyb

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