As the illness progresses, a person living with dementia will start to find simple tasks challenging such as combing or styling their hair, or even remembering to bathe themselves or to brush their teeth. For many, they might not even remember what they once used a razor or a hairbrush for. If they have already begun to lose mobility, this can also hinder their ability to meet all their needs in terms of personal hygiene.
There are many reasons why maintaining personal hygiene is particularly important in the care for someone with dementia, also why it is important to make a routine out of it. Someone with dementia is unlikely to remember to bring it to the attention of their carer that they might have an ingrown toenail, for example, until it is extremely painful and infected. Routine appointments to take care of their personal hygiene means that nothing will be left out or go unnoticed until it is too late.
Unfortunately, neglecting any part of their personal hygiene can lead to some serious medical consequences like bacterial infections such as UTIs, gastroenteritis, dental abscesses, and more due to their already weakened immune system. Besides the medical reasons for personal upkeep, there are proven psychological advantages of good personal hygiene as well.
When someone feels good and looks good their confidence is boosted, and a lack of confidence is a huge problem with dementia sufferers as they live in a world of constant uncertainty. Richard Ward, a senior lecturer in Dementia Studies at Stirling University, notes: ‘We need to rethink our understanding of appearance and the part it plays in the lives of people with dementia. It enhances the identities, self-expression and social participation of people in all stages of the dementia journey.”
What makes it difficult for a caregiver to provide this on their own?
As the primary caregiver, providing this level of care is challenging, as it is not simply trimming nails and brushing hair. Dementia sufferers often have bad days amongst their good days, which can make achieving these tasks very difficult and even dangerous. Some grooming tasks are also best to be carried out by trained professionals, and ones with experience or who are trained to work with memory impaired patients.
If you are caring for a loved one with dementia on your own you need to be flexible, patient and try to stick to their routines. Here are some tips that you can follow to make these tasks a bit easier or safer:
Hair: Keep your loved one’s hairstyle short if possible, as this will make it easier for both of you to maintain. The act of washing, combing, drying, and even having their hair cut will be a much quicker and simpler process.
Shaving: If your loved requires regular shaving rather move over to an electric razor for ease of use; they are much quicker and safer to use as their illness progresses. Using an electric razor may also enable your loved one to perform this task on their own for longer, giving them more autonomy for as long as possible.
Eye care: People with dementia lose things often, so glasses will be misplaced or forgotten but are important to their being able to move around safely. To limit these going missing keep them in the same place when not in use and remind your loved one to wear them when needed. Also keep regular optician checkups for as long as you can.
Oral care: As your loved one’s dementia progresses they will more frequently forget to brush their teeth or look after their dentures, and so will need frequent reminding. Arrange frequent dental checkups, preferably with a dentist that your loved one knows. Keep an eye out for redness, sores, loose teeth or swelling in your loved one’s mouth.
Feet, fingers and toes: Keep to a regular routine of grooming nails as their ability to do this themselves diminishes, however involve them where you can (eg. offer a cardboard nail file as a safe alternative). Foot problems are common for the elderly, so this is a good time to look out for calluses or swelling that might indicate that medical intervention is needed.
Personal grooming for dementia care at Livewell Villages
At Livewell, our villages are all equipped with an in-house salon where residents can receive personal grooming and some pampering by trained professionals with experience working with dementia patients. If there are any medical issues picked up in these grooming sessions our carers ensure that that resident receives the proper medical care and regular follow ups.
If you would like to find our more about the services offered to our residents at Livewell Villages, please contact us directly.