Do something new… and pamper

Welcome to the second of my seven blog posts for UK Dementia Awareness Week 2015.

This year’s Dementia Awareness Week centres around the theme of doing something new for people with dementia, under the mantra that ‘Life doesn’t have to end when dementia begins’. For many people living with dementia in care homes, however, a lack of opportunities to have meaningful occupation and activity, or even just enjoy the simple pleasures that many of us take for granted, can lead to life feeling like it really has ended.

Over this Dementia Awareness Week (DAW2015) I want to look at some of the positive things relatives and staff can do to enhance the lived experience of people with dementia in care homes. They may be new things, or they may be old favourites, but they all share in the ability to turn a boring day into something a little bit more special.

Day 2: Pampering

Personal care is often a very task-orientated activity that only allows for the bare essentials of washing, dressing and being helped to the toilet. When time allows, care staff are expected to ensure that fingernails are cut and that people who want to see the hairdresser, barber or chiropodist are enabled to, but often that is as far as ‘pampering’ goes.

There is so much more that we can do to make people feel special, however. Small touches like a favourite scent in the bath, a hand or foot massage, painting nails or applying make-up for ladies who like that look, giving ladies who’ve had their hair washed a lovely blow dry (including putting a few rollers in for those who would enjoy that) or ensuring gentlemen have their facial hair shaved or trimmed the way they like it can all make a difference to how a person feels.

Many of these actions do ask for a time commitment, particularly if you’re going to make them luxurious experiences, but that one-to-one time is often vital for people living with dementia in a care home, and there is absolutely no reason why relatives can’t get involved in these activities too – I spent many hours doing my dad’s nails, cutting his hair and giving him a shave or a hand massage. Never underestimate the simple happiness and the huge bonding potential of making someone feel just a little bit more special than they did the day before.

Also, remember that pampering can go beyond making the body feel nice and extend to choices of clothing and accessories. The same drab outfits day after day (that are probably wearing away due to extensive high-temperature washing and drying) are likely to dampen anyone’s mood. Why not treat your loved one to a shopping trip, either by going out to the shops or via online or catalogue shopping, or even just jazz up tired outfits with new accessories. If you have the knowledge to turn yourself into a seamstress, you might even be able to remodel hardly-worn outfits, breathing new life into them. Even small details like different buttons, a fabric corsage (no pins!) or some sparkly trimmings can make a big difference to how the person wearing the clothing feels about their appearance. 

More information, tips and advice on pampering can be found in the following D4Dementia blog posts:

Little touches that make a BIG difference

Humanity in care – The role of touch

A helping hand

Next post on 19 May 2015.

Until then…

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