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Grooming & Personal Care for Persons with Dementia

Did you know?

Your loved one may take over a grooming task, for example, hair brushing, once you guide his or her hand to perform it a few times.

Video

Watch a video that that shows a caregiver using verbal, visual, and tactile cues to help a woman in a moderately late stage of dementia groom herself (3 minutes 30 seconds long).

One of the ways in which we stand out as individuals in the world is through our appearance. As your loved one’s dementia progresses, self grooming tasks, such as caring for teeth, shaving, or even brushing hair can become more and more challenging for your loved one. He or she may even forget the function of a nail clipper, comb or toothbrush.

Suggestions for Caregivers

Try to maintain the grooming routine established by your loved one, because the less you change a grooming routine, the more your loved one will be able to do by him or herself. Use simpler, safer grooming tools. Encourage and compliment your loved one in his or her efforts to groom. Problems with grooming depend upon which part of the brain is affected. For example, if the part of the brain that can follow a sequence of steps is affected, you may have to remind your loved one about each step of a grooming task. When he or she falters, demonstrate the grooming task and encourage him or her to copy you. If this fails, try the hand-under-hand technique.

Hair Styling and Makeup

Try short, simple hairstyles for men and women. Use minimal or no makeup for women.

Shaving

At first, just a reminder to shave may be needed. If your loved one was already using an electric razor, he may be able to continue shaving relatively longer as it takes less dexterity and is safer. If your loved one starts cutting himself with a razor, it may be time to take over shaving. If you use a safety razor, prepare by putting a towel under his chin to catch water. Use a cloth to wet the man’s beard area and apply shaving cream. Shave in the direction hair grows using short strokes being gentle over sensitive areas. Rinse with a fresh wet cloth and dry his skin. After-shave lotion is optional.
With electric razors you may want to use a pre-shave lotion specifically for electric razors. Use firm circular motions. One way to help reduce anxiety in your loved one about your using an electric razor to shave him is to put a second electric razor in the his hand and to turn it on. Feeling the vibration in his hand may help him connect with what you are doing.

Eye Care in Dementia

Glasses are frequently misplaced by people with dementia. Your loved one may eventually reach a point where he or she forgets to wear needed glasses and will need reminding. Eventually, he or she may need help putting them on. It is important to continue to wear glasses to help make mobility safer and to provide visual stimulation to the brain. Glaucoma and cataracts are common eye problems that need to be detected and treated to prevent blindness.

Suggestions: Be careful to always put glasses in the same place when not in use. Remind your loved one to wear glasses. Remember to take your loved one to regular eye doctor checkups for as long as possible.

Mouth Care in Dementia

In early stages of dementia, there often is no problem with mouth care. Eventually, your loved one may need to be reminded to brush their teeth or care for their dentures. Dentures are frequently misplaced by people with dementia. Your loved one may eventually reach a point where he or she forgets to put in dentures and will need reminding. Eventually, he or she may need help with these tasks. It is important to continue to wear dentures for proper digestion.

Suggestions: Be careful to always put dentures in the same place when not in use. Remind your loved one to wear dentures. Remember to take your loved one to regular dental checkups for as long as possible.

Mouth care in late dementia: Eventually you may have to care for teeth and dentures and insert and remove dentures. As communication problems progress, your loved one may be less capable of communicating about a dental problem. Unexplained irritability or refusal to eat may indicate a dental or other medical symptom.

Suggestions: Brush your loved one’s teeth and/or use a moistened gauze pad to clean soft tissues after every meal. Many caregivers find this is easiest to do from behind with your loved one’s head resting on a chair back or in your lap. A clean mouth helps reduce the risk of infection. Look for redness, sores, loose teeth, or swelling, and if you find any, seek dental treatment for your loved one.

Finger and Toe Nails and Other Foot Care in Dementia

Your loved one may lose the ability to groom his or her own nails, especially toe nails. In addition to simply forgetting how to do it, with age it also becomes harder to reach or see the feet. With some forms and stages of dementia, balance and dexterity may also be a problem. Painful foot problems, such as bunions or calluses, are common in the elderly but a person with dementia may not be able to communicate clearly about what is wrong.

Suggestions: Establish a regular routine for grooming nails and assist as needed. While you are grooming the feet, check for signs of irritation that might indicate shoe problems or any enlargements, discolorations or other changes that might indicate a foot problem. It is important to catch foot problems while they are minor before they progress to serious problems.

Resources

Personal Care

Source: Alz.org
Description: This web page gives advice on where to begin when helping your loved one with grooming, and lists several important things that should be taken into consideration. It also offers sections of advice on oral care, hair care, skin care, and foot care (including nail care).

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Dressing and Grooming

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This web page gives advice on how you can assist your loved one with dressing routines, including simplifying choices, substituting Velcro for more complicated buttons and snaps, providing direction, and buying duplicate outfits if your loved one insists on wearing the same outfit all the time.

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Vision Check Might Help Alzheimer's Patients

Source: WebMD.com
Description: This webpage describes the importance of eye tests and glasses in people with demenetia as well as tips for keeping track of their glasses.

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Dental Care in Dementia

Source: About.com
Description: This web page discusses what oral care is needed at early and late stages of dementia, describes signs of dental problems, and provides advice on how to assist your loved one with oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and denture care.

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