How to help a person with personal grooming
Our sense of self and individuality are closely linked to our personal appearance. When we look good, we feel good.
Personal grooming tasks like shaving, doing our nails and hair, are things we usually do to improve our appearance in private.
For many people living with dementia a trip to the hairdresser or beauty parlour will be a familiar pleasurable experience. If a loved one with dementia enjoys getting their nails done it could be an activity you can do together.
For others, having a stranger cut their hair or douse their head in water could be frightening and a home visit may be more suitable.
As a caregiver you may have to help a person with intimate personal care tasks. How much help a person with dementia needs will depend on how far dementia has progressed and what part of the brain is damaged.
Even completing a simple task like shaving can be difficult for a person with dementia if certain parts of the brain are affected.
For instance, in the early stages of dementia a caregiver may have to prompt a person to shave by guiding a person's hand to get them started.
In the later stages of dementia a person may have problems recognising a shaver or remembering what to do next. The noise of an electric shaver may be familiar to one person with dementia but frightening to another.
Tips for personal grooming and dementia care
Everyone has their own routine and particular ways of doing things. It's important for caregivers to try to stick to a person's normal routine but be open to change when required.
Use simple familiar tools and remember a person's ability to do a task can change daily depending on how they feel. Try and be patient and give clear instructions one at a time.
- Make the experience pleasurable or turn it into an activity.
- If someone has traditionally worn makeup continue with their routine. Buy several of their favourite lipstick!
- Is the environment quiet and private? Is there adequate lighting?
- Consider a person's normal routine. Does the person like to stand at the mirror to brush their hair or sit at a dresser?
- Avoid rushing a person. Are you making them feel uneasy or embarrassed?
- Does the person need verbal instruction for each task or a physical prompt?
- Can the person recognise an object? Do you need to lay out necessary items such as a shaver, towel, soap or brush?
- Is the person resistive or scared? Do you need to occupy a person's other hand with an object?
- If you demonstrate a task will it prompt the person to start?
- Are you placing unnecessary pressure on a person? What is important to the person?
- It can be easy to overlook the toes! Painful toes and long toenails can affect a person's mobility.
- Don't forget to complement a person on the way they look!