Most of us don’t give a second thought to washing and styling our hair. While we may change our hairstyle and even hair color over the years, we typically develop a routine when it comes to washing and styling it. However, for older adults with mobility issues or memory challenges, hair care can become a source of frustration. In addition to dealing with changing hair color and texture, simple tasks such as washing and styling hair can become quite challenging. Often these challenges are compounded when a loved one needs assistance.
Set a Routine
As we age, our scalp produces less oil, and we can go longer in between washes. Plan to wash your loved one’s hair about once a week. In between, you can use dry shampoo, no-rinse shampoo, or add accessories such as a hat to extend the style between washes. Remember to brush the hair daily and check the scalp for any signs of dirt and oil that may require you to wash more often.
When it comes to washing an older person’s hair, easy does it. Skin and hair become more fragile with age, and someone who once enjoyed a vigorous scrubbing may wince in pain a few years later. Use a light touch and ask them to alert you if the pressure is too much. It’s also important to check water pressure and temperature when washing.
Create an Experience
For someone with mobility issues, hair care can be a source of stress. They may feel unsteady leaning over to get their hair washed, and they may be afraid of the sound or feel of water.
Take away the stress by creating a positive yet simple experience around wash day. This can include calming music, essential oils to provide relaxing scents, and even a special bathrobe or washing attire. For those who are unsteady or bed-bound, consider an inflatable wash basin.
End the session with a favorite snack or special treat. By keeping the experience positive, you’ll both be more likely to avoid stress and remain calm.
Consult a Professional When Needed
There are times when a loved one is especially resistant or anxious, and it’s best to consult a professional. Older adults are often less resistant when working with a professional as opposed to a family member.
One option is to schedule a weekly hair appointment with a professional stylist who is experienced in dealing with senior hair care. A trip to the stylist can help your loved one feel pampered and can be an experience to look forward to each week! If going out isn’t an option, look for stylists who will come to your home, or ask for in-home advice or assistance from trained caregivers. In-home professionals are trained to manage daily living needs for those with memory care and mobility issues. They can help you assess your loved one’s needs and help you find the right strategy for hair care and personal hygiene.
Caring for our loved ones as they age is a great honor! With these tips and strategies, you can make hair care a special bonding experience for both of you.