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Hair Care For Seniors: Useful Tips For Caregivers

Hair Care for Seniors: Useful Tips for Caregivers

Hair care for seniors may seem like a superfluous thing to worry about, given the many chronic health conditions that may be present, medications to be given appropriately and the importance of nutrition and hydration. However, hair care is an important part of an individual’s dignity and self-esteem. Keeping it clean and well-groomed makes a difference in a how a senior feels. Seniors may find it difficult to travel to a hair salon or they may be bedbound. These factors make it important for caregivers to know how to care for a senior’s hair.

The condition of hair in seniors

Aging, stress and hormonal changes can significantly change the condition of hair in seniors and cause it to grow much more slowly. Hair shedding may increase as the body ages and the scalp may become dry and itchy. The hair isn’t as elastic as it used to be and if the hair has repeatedly been processed with perms, coloring and/or straightening it may be dry, brittle and break easily. With age, the oil glands in the scalp begin to shrink and that can also contribute to dry hair that falls out more easily.

The best products for senior hair care

Selecting the right products for hair care in seniors can reduce hair breakage and in some cases, the amount of hair that sheds. Here are the best types of products for senior hair:

  • Shampoos that have natural oils like argan and/or coconut moisturize the hair.
  • Conditioners that have hydrolyzed keratin (protein), and/or olive oil and shea butter.
  • Oil hair masks can add moisture to the hair.
  • A boar bristle brush is easier on the hair and may reduce breakage.

Paying attention to nutrition will also keep the hair as healthy as possible. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in iron, like spinach, broccoli, lentils and dark chocolate, is most beneficial.

Whether or not to go to the salon or barbershop

The decision on whether to take your loved one to the salon or barbershop depends entirely upon the status of his or her physical and mental health. If your loved one is mobile and can walk up and down stairs, the socialization of going to the hair salon/barbershop will be beneficial. However, if it is difficult for your loved one go up and down stairs safely or to keep their balance while walking, it may be time to introduce hair care at home.

Early onset dementia can make it difficult for people to process new environments and multiple conversations. They may forget the person who has cut their hair for years and they may find the salon/barbershop environment chaotic and difficult to process. If your loved one suffers with any type of dementia it is important to take these things into consideration when deciding whether or not to continue trips to the salon.

Caring for hair for seniors who are bed bound

If your loved one is bedbound, it is still possible to wash his or her hair. Several products can make it easier:

  • No-rinse shampoos are easy to use.
  • Nurses (as discussed in the online nursing forum, All Nurses), recommend Sage shampoo caps available on
  • Nurses also recommend using a specially made hair wash basin. It’s more expensive than the shampoo caps, but something to consider.

How do you wash a bed bound person’s hair? Here is the technique that nurses use:

  1. Fold a pillow in half and place it under the top of the person’s back so it lifts the head enough to place a basin under it.
  2. Place towels under the basin and on the person’s shoulders.
  3. Dilute the shampoo in water to make rinsing easier.
  4. Pour the diluted shampoo on the hair and gently rub it through the hair.
  5. Rinse it.
  6. Comb out the hair and dry it gently with a towel.
  7. Place a dry towel over the pillow until the hair air drys, or use a blow dryer on low, cool air if the person can tolerate it.
  8. Once the hair is dry, comb it again. For women, you can style it a bit in the front to make them feel good about how it looks.

If you are responsible for caring for your loved one’s hair, it can help to make it a bit of an occasion. Prepare tea, coffee or your loved one’s favorite drink and a plate of cookies or healthy snack. Laugh and talk and make hair washing the social occasion it used to be when your loved one went to the salon/barbershop regularly.

Regardless of a person’s age, personal grooming is an important part of self-esteem. Looking good leads to feeling good and that is one reason why hair care for seniors is important, and why it can help to avoid depression and isolation.

If you need help caring for your loved one, contact Family Matters In-Home Care for a free consultation. Our caregivers will spend time with your loved one, provide companionship, activities that are mentally stimulating, and will cook nutrition meals and do light housekeeping. Most importantly, our caregivers will give you peace of mind that your loved one is being cared for with the proper support.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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