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Grooming Tips for Dementia

This video shows a caregiver using verbal, visual, and tactile cues to help a person in a moderately late stage of dementia groom herself (time: 3 minutes 30 seconds).

For an individual who is in a moderately late to late stage of dementia, self-grooming is a task that can no longer be done on his or her own. Regardless of whether that person has Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia, Huntington’s disease, or any number of other dementia’s, the fact remains the same: The dementia patient requires significant assistance with grooming. Providing assistance, be that brushing teeth, dressing, combing hair, or washing, can be frustrating, particularly if you aren’t currently equipped with the skills to help this process go as smoothly as possible. The following tips can help to simplify the grooming process, resulting in less frustration for both you and the individual with dementia.

First, use verbal encouragement and cues when providing grooming assistance. Before you begin a task, such as brushing the individual’s teeth, inform the Alzheimer’s patient as to what you will be doing. For instance, you might say, “I’m going to help you brush your teeth” or “Together we are going to brush your teeth”.

You will also want to use visual prompts, such as presenting the necessary items for brushing one’s teeth to the dementia patient. This is as simple as showing the individual the objects and saying, “Your toothbrush is here in my hand and so is your toothpaste. I’m going to go ahead and take the lid off of the toothpaste.

While you will be doing the majority of the work, ask the individual to assist with the task. For example, you might say, “Here, you can put the toothpaste on the toothbrush.” When asking an individual with dementia to assist, make sure that you are on that person’s dominant side, so if he or she is right handed, stand on their right side. In the example in the video, the caretaker is aware that the woman with dementia is unable to squeeze the toothpaste tube and put toothpaste on her toothbrush. So, she asks the woman to hold onto her wrist with her right hand, her dominant hand. In the video, you will see how the dementia patient grips the caretaker’s wrist as the caretaker is squeezing the tube of toothpaste, trying to offer assistance in the task.

Tactile cues are also helpful when offering grooming assistance. For instance, you might touch the Alzheimer patient’s hand with the toothbrush to get the individual to hold onto it. Using hand-under-hand assistance, you are able to hold and move the toothbrush while the individual is also holding onto it. For some tasks, such as combing one’s hair, guiding the individual through the action of combing his or her hair might be sufficient for the person to continue this task alone. However, tactile clues, such as touching the part of the head they should comb next, may be necessary.

Remember to continue to use verbal encouragement throughout the grooming tasks, such as telling the dementia patient what a great job they are doing or how nice they look.

This video shows a caregiver using verbal, visual, and tactile cues to help a person in a moderately late stage of dementia groom herself (time: 3 minutes 30 seconds).

Learn how a caregiver uses verbal, visual, and tactile cues to help a person in a moderately late stage of dementia groom herself.