Teri Moe still remembers her reaction when she was asked if the Waupaca Senior Center would host a toenail clinic.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this is weird.’ But I thought, ‘OK, they (seniors) have arthritis. They have diabetes, bad knees, dizziness,’” she said.
Up until that moment, she had not thought about how those conditions affected the ability of senior citizens to cut their toenails.
“I said, ‘OK. We’ll try it,’” said Moe, who is the city’s senior citizen coordinator.
That was 21 years ago, and the clinic has grown from being offered once a month at the center to twice monthly.
Initially, it was a marketing tool for Crystal River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, she said.
Gary Tritt was its director of nursing when he approached Moe with the idea.
After Moe decided to give it a try, she publicized information about the toenail clinic in the senior center newsletter.
“I was here on the first day,” said Sarah Thompson, a licensed practical nurse at Crystal River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “I remember being asked by Gary to help. After the first one, we decided it would be held the third Thursday of every month.”
Deb Appleby was the other nurse at the first clinic, which was attended by about a dozen people. Appleby’s husband, Bob, also volunteered his service for a number of years, when he was a nurse at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.
In addition to having their toenails clipped, the seniors had their blood pressure checked.
When the second clinic was held a month later, “we were overloaded,” Thompson said.
She attributed it to word of mouth from those who were at the first clinic and the fact there was a need for the service.
A needed service
For those who have diabetes, a wound or infection which is left untreated may result in the loss of toes or lower extremities, Thompson said.
Checking to make sure feet are healthy is an important service not only for those who have diabetes but for those who cannot see, she said.
In addition, “we’ve also had people come in and we’ve found other things, like pneumonia,” Thompson said.
Moe said when the nurses check the blood pressure of the seniors, they ask those whose blood pressure is high whether they are taking their blood pressure medication and tell them to call their physician.
Cammie McDaniel is the director of nursing at Crystal River and a wound care certified nurse.
“I look for circulatory issues, complications from diabetes,” she said. “If I see something, I refer them to a podiatrist. I’ve been here about 10 years.”
In addition to Thompson and McDaniel, Tanya Rekowski also helps at the toenail clinic.
She is Crystal River’s assistant director of nursing and was integrated into the senior center program about three years ago.
“I love it. It’s the best part of our month,” Rekowski said. “They are like our family.”
Celebrating a milestone
On Jan. 16, the senior center and Crystal River celebrated 21 years of holding the toenail clinic.
The clinic is held from 10 a.m. to noon on the first and third Thursdays of the month.
“A year ago, we added the second date,” Moe said. “We were overwhelmed and overscheduled.”
Before deciding to have two clinics per month, there were times when people were lined up against the wall, Rekowski said.
“It was hard to turn people away,” Thompson said. “They needed the service.”
There are always two nurses doing the clipping and a third person checking the blood pressure and blood sugar of seniors and also handling the scheduling.
“I have people calling all the time,” Moe said of the service.
Information about the clinic continues to spread via word of mouth, and Waupaca County also refers seniors to the clinic, she said.
They typically see about 25 people at each clinic. The seniors sit comfortably in dental chairs which were donated for the clinic.
Crystal River does not charge for the service it provides. Donations are accepted.
“We have an aviary at the nursing home. It goes toward the bird fund,” Thompson said of the donations Crystal River receives.
Seniors may make an appointment for the toenail clinic by calling the Waupaca Senior Center at 715-258-4437.
Moe said the clinic has impressed the directors of other senior centers.
The reason it is so successful, she said, is because of the nurses from Crystal River.
Those who attend the clinic write letters to the nurses to show their appreciation.
“Some of them, if they can’t make it here, they stop at Crystal River, and we clip their nails,” Retkowski said.
At the clinic, some of them get the “extra push” to have something checked, she said.
“They are wonderful with them (the seniors),” Moe said.
She said the service would not happen without the nursing home’s support.
“Now, when people say to me, ‘Oh, that’s so weird.’ I say, ‘No. No. No.’” Moe said. “It’s one of our most needed and valued programs that we provide.”