It’s something that may be taken for granted by younger adults, but for seniors, foot-care services can be a critical need.
Such was the case in South Etobicoke when Storefront Humber was forced to cancel its popular and low-cost nail-cutting service after its nurse resigned in recent months. Her sudden departure left some seniors in the community scrambling to find an alternative. The non-profit agency – founded 40 years ago to help seniors and disabled people remain independent in their own homes – told The Guardian they’ve finally hired another nurse to resume the $8 service, but the time they went without one forced the issue into the spotlight.
“There is no space for seniors anywhere in the community to get this service. We’re crying out for more space,” said Ruthmary James, a local senior who is diabetic. “People don’t know what to do. As you get older, you can get infections. If you can’t walk around because of your toenails, what are you supposed to do?”
As people age, toenails tend to grow harder and thicker, making self-care difficult for many older adults, including those who are disabled.
Without the Storefront Humber service, James found care at a clinic that serves diabetics, but the $20 cost soared to $36 because she needed work done on her calluses.
Frustrated, James called area organizations Stonegate and LAMP Community Health Centres to inquire about their chiropody clinics. She learned both had wait lists.
However, the fact is community health centres’ chiropody clinics do not offer nail-cutting services.
Chiropodists offer a different scope of practice, which includes working on corns and calluses, wound care, biomechanical or gait problems, as well as physical therapy. Chiropodists perform more serious medical interventions, such as ordering X-rays, surgeries and writing prescriptions.
LAMP Community Health Centre has 600 ongoing clients in its busy chiropody clinic, another 50 on a waiting list. It offered nail cutting decades ago, but that ended years ago when the chiropody practice became so full of medical patients.
“We only take new (chiropody) patients if they are internally referred and of an urgent circumstance, which is basically nobody,” Lorraine Telford, LAMP’s manager of clinical programs said. “The patients on our roster are either acute or chronic, but serious.
“We don’t just clip toenails. Although a lot of seniors want and need that service.”
But local seniors can feel heartened.
Last Wednesday night, a new registered nurse trained in nail cutting started offering the service again at Storefront Humber on Lake Shore Boulevard West at Mimico Avenue.
The nurse works every first and third Wednesday night from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Transportation to and from the agency is available for $5. Call 416-259-4207 for more information.
“We look after seniors and disabled people and a lot of them have toenails that are difficult to cut and don’t have the money for a (private) chiropodist,” Mary Hansen, Storefront Humber’s executive director said. “People were complaining. It’s a needed service, especially for people on a low income.”
Storefront Humber receives no Ontario government funding to offer the service, nor does it supplement the cost. Nail cutting is fee for service. Seniors pay the $8 fee directly to the nurse to cover her wage.
“Our former nurse quit. We put an ad in for a replacement. But not all nurses want to do this. It’s not a lot of money for her time,” Hansen said.
The nurse will treat 15 or so patients a night, Hansen reported.
However, the need is so great in the community, Hansen said she remains hopeful a second nurse could be hired for an additional two nights a month.
But the broader question remains – how to get more nail-cutting services in the community for seniors who need it.
James said she considered protesting at Queen’s Park.
The central Local Health Integration Network, an agency of the Ontario government that funds Storefront Humber – but not its nail cutting service – and LAMP and Stonegate Community Health Centres, reported it is aware of the need.
“Over the last few years, Toronto Central LHIN has increased the availability of chiropody services available through CHCs, however we do also recognize a gap exists for general toe nail care,” Toronto Central LHIN communications consultant Sharon Navarro said. “As issues like (this) example arise, we continue to look at collaborative solutions and partnerships within the community that could help to address the needs of seniors.”
Hansen said maintaining the level of nail-cutting service needed in the community is an ongoing challenge.
“We’re trying to get more services on the Lakeshore, but it remains to be seen,” she said.
For more information, call Storefront Humber at 416-259-4207.