Dementia Care: Best Ways to Clean Hair

A big part of looking well-groomed is having clean hair. But while some people with dementia actually like having their hair washed regularly, others will balk at a shampoo because they don’t like getting their hair and face wet.

As a result, hair washing can be one of the hardest things to do when caring for a person with dementia. Here are several tips to make hair care as stress-free as possible:

Don’t wash your loved one’s hair at the same time as you bathe him or her. Doing both at the same time may feel overwhelming.

Since many older people are unable to maintain a position that allows washing hair at the sink, it’s best to shampoo hair while your loved one is seated in a tub or shower.

Place cotton in the care recipient’s ears, if they want, because it can prevent water from getting in them. If your loved one complains about getting shampoo in his or her eyes, have him or her hold a washcloth over them.

Using a hand-held shower, wash and condition the hair, then rinse thoroughly. (Leaving any shampoo in the hair can cause dry scalp and itching.)

If you or your loved one prefers to have his or her hair washed and groomed by a hairdresser or barber, make regular appointments.

If washing your loved one’s hair becomes too difficult, or getting to the beauty parlor or barber shop is no longer physically possible, try using a dry shampoo. Dry shampoos lightly freshen the scalp and hair without the need for lathering and rinsing. (Dry shampoos will fluff up the hair, but they will not remove dirt or odors, nor will they combat many scalp conditions such as dandruff.)

Once your loved one’s hair is clean and styled, mention how great he or she looks. No matter how severe a person’s dementia, praise will usually register and provide a welcome mood boost.