The Art of Correcting Someone With Mild Dementia

Bad hair days happen. Along with an uneven shave or misapplied makeup, subtle missteps in appearance can be evidence of your loved one's struggle to cope with brain changes.

Should you mention it when something seems askew?

Only if necessary and then only in the nicest, most casual and respectful way -- as you'd mention, say, spinach in a dining companion's teeth.

Why isn't correcting helpful?

Your loved one is probably well aware of not feeling like his or her old self lately, and needlessly linking every personal-care lapse to dementia is apt to only make her or him feel self-conscious or upset.

What works better?

If you see your loved one struggling with an aspect of personal care, see if there's a more global way to solve the problem. Examples: a shorter, no-fuss haircut, a new paler lipstick or gloss that makes misapplication less obvious. Offer to help out in a casual way: "Here, maybe I can try that."

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 6 years, said...

I kid my husband when he misses the whiskers on his neck that he has left a little for me to shave off. When we were first married he used to lay with his head in my lap while I shaved him (using an electric razor) so it is something he has been used to and doesn't find objectionable. I also cut his hair rather short and will say I must be slipping that I let his hair get too long when it needs cutting and this works for us. He also has the disposition of a saint and so far anger hasn't reared her ugly head very often. I know it does happen but find if I try and maintain my composer it helps tremendously.

over 6 years, said...

My husband is 63 and has early onset Alzheimer,s, for safety reasons he shaves with an electric razor that runs on batteries, I have two one to use and one being cleaned. He always misses the stubble on his neck. When I,m helping him with his bath, he,s also handicapped, I offer to treat him to a shave which he loves. I lather him up while he,s on his bath seat just before he gets out, put a towel around his shoulders for warmth, and give him a close shave with a safety razor, gillette 'fusion is great when your shaving another person, it glides well and no nicks, . The shave cream mess is left in the tub and his stubble problem is taken care of without mentioning the problem at all.