New Study Shows Benefits of Hairdressing for People with Dementia

A new study, from the University of Stirling, has highlighted for the first time the benefits of hairdressing to the quality of life of people living with dementia. The research, entitled the ‘Hair and Care Project’, was carried out by Richard Ward, Senior Lecturer in Dementia Studies, University of Stirling, along with Sarah Campbell and Professor John Keady of the University of Manchester, and focused on the role of hair care in dementia.

The researchers filmed and observed people with dementia attending a number of care-based hair salons over a 10-month period and also followed a number of mobile hairdressers as they visited people with dementia in their own homes.

The findings supported the value of hairdressing and other appearance-related support were integral to the wellbeing of people living with dementia and that visiting a salon could re-ignite memories, encourage social interaction and the hairdressers often offered valuable emotional support to their clients with dementia. Read on to learn more about this new study and how your own service users can benefit from an activity as simple as hair care.

Researcher, Richard Ward, said: ‘The salon is a very natural setting for reminiscing but also a place where people share insights into self-image, and voice concerns about their lives. The overarching message our research highlighted was that we need to re-think our understanding of appearance and the part it plays in the lives of people with dementia.’

Perhaps we take for granted the benefits of a regular visit to the hairdresser but this research shows that by building on what our intuition already tells us is a positive experience, we can use this to enhance the lives of those in our care.

3 Steps to Help Service Users Get the Maximum Benefit from their Hair and Beauty Routine

  1. Recreate the experience. Many modern, purpose-built care homes have been designed to have a dedicated hair and beauty salon but even in older, converted homes, there is the opportunity to recreate the feeling of going to the hairdresser. Think about the steps you can take to create a space in your own service that can be recognised as a hairdressing room or salon and which will make your service users feel as though they are being pampered.
  2. Don’t forget the gents. Some men may feel uncomfortable having their hair cut in what they perceive as a female environment, so consider having time set aside for a regular ‘barber shop’ session. You may even want to engage a separate gents’ barber for your male service users to complete the barber shop feel.
  3. Do it for real. Think about whether it is necessary for all of your service users to have their hair cut or styled within the care home, or if they could actually visit a high street salon or barber shop instead. With appropriate support, some may be able to maintain a greater degree of normality in their life and maintain contact with the outside world by visiting a local salon and benefiting from the stimulation and social opportunities this provides.

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