Helping your loved one with Alzheimer's disease with his or her grooming is not as easy as it may seem. Activities such as combing hair, shaving, and applying makeup can easily be taken for granted when you are healthy, but when they are impacted from either memory loss or apraxia, they can become more challenging than you would ever imagine. The following strategies and tips related to grooming may help maximize your loved one's quality of life and self-esteem.
Keep Grooming Comfortable and Routine
For many elderly women, the experience of going to the hair salon or beauty parlor on a regular basis is very satisfying; I work in many assisted living facilities where the hair salon is the most spacious and pleasant room in the building. Particularly while your loved one is still in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer's, continuing to use favorite toiletries, toothpaste, cosmetics and perfumes is highly recommended.
Consider Safe and Simple Grooming Tools
Using nail files and electric shavers instead of clippers and razor blades is usually preferable, and fortunately for men who are accustomed to a razor shave, today's electric shavers provide virtually as close a shave as a fancy high-end razor blade.
Try the Bridging Technique
Bridging is a technique that communicates respect to your loved one using sensory connection. Your loved one holds the same object as you while you carry out the grooming task. The idea is to not only communicate respect, but also to increase your loved one's focus on the task and reduce anxiety.
For example, placing an electric shaver in your loved one's hand enables him to feel its shape and vibration and hear its buzzing sound, which should help him feel relaxed and connected to the shaving process as you help him with it.
Alzheimer's Association. Accessed: September 15, 2010. Dressing and Grooming
Kovach, Christine R., ed. (1997). Late Stage Dementia Care: A Basic Guide. Washington, D.C.: Taylor and Francis.