Sneaking in a Shampoo

Mrs. Huntington prefers not to bathe. I am not really sure why. I have heard that is common with dementia patients. Some say the water itself scares them. I have read that they just aren’t able to smell themselves or see that they are in need of a bath. It seems like she is afraid of falling or maybe can’t remember how to bathe but doesn’t want any help. Whatever the reason, haircuts are a great way to sneak in a hair wash.

We had finished breakfast and were sitting in the recliner. “Today we are going to get a haircut.”

“When?” She asks shocked.

“As soon as Jaime gets up. He is going with us.”

“I’ll just stay here.”

“No. You need a haircut. Jaime and I are getting haircuts, too.”

She looks around the room as though searching for a response.

“Jaime, are you ready?” I ask hollering down the hall.

“Yes, I’m ready,” he says.

“Okay, let’s get your jacket on.”

“Do I have a jacket?”

“Yes. Right here.” I pull it off the coat hook. We have found that it is best not to tell her in advance what we are planning. She obsesses over the details. She worries if she has nice clothes to wear. Sometimes she gets herself in such a snit that she can’t sleep.

“Are these clothes okay?” She looks down at herself.

“Yes. Those look fine.” I say reassuringly and hand her the coat after she gets up.

Jaime helps her get down the steps off the porch. Before long we are on our way. In the car I ask her if she wants to get her hair cut shorter like she used to wear it. She says yes, but I get the idea she can’t remember how she used to wear it. Then she says she wants it very short. It’s past her shoulders now in a long bob. We park and make our way into the haircut salon. Jaime’s stylist isn’t there today so he is going to pass on his cut.

I am called first and it worries me. I feel the need to explain to the hair stylist how she wants her hair. She tells me not to worry. They have a note on Mrs. Huntington’s file about her and how to do her hair. They are so good, I realize. I relax in hesitant fits.

My stylist puts me in the chair at the hair wash station. I remind myself to enjoy this. I love getting my hair washed. It’s like a cheap massage. I close my eyes and lean back I know Jaime is with her if she needs something.

I’m jolted back to reality when my mother-in-law’s hair dressers steps over. “She wants it really short. As in clippers in the back. I just thought I would check with you first.” She waits for my answer.

I try to imagine it that short and then it occurs to me that it’s her hair. If that makes her happy, then who cares? “Whatever she wants is fine.” I smile at the girl sincerely. She goes back to Mrs. Huntington. Then to my stylist I say, “Is she cutting her hair while it’s dirty? Is that easier? Why didn’t she wash it first?”

“She wouldn’t let her wash her hair,” said my stylist.

“What? Oh, she must have a hair wash. Go tell the lady. That’s half of why I brought her in. She needs her hair washed and doesn’t like to do it at home. It’s nearly impossible to get her wash her hair. Tell her I already paid for it and we will be wasting our money if she doesn’t get a wash.”

My stylist runs off and whispers in the other lady’s ear. She comes back and says, “Okay. She is going to wash it after its cut.”

Back in the chair, I am all the way across the salon but I can see her smiling widely at her reflection in the mirror. Her stylist is cutting it just the way she wanted it. This makes me so happy. Despite the numerous times that she drives me crazy, anything that brings her joy is a blessing.  I’m so glad to see her enjoying herself. She can be so bitter about most of her life that the times when she actually finds true happiness are like a ray of sunshine.

After the cut, they help her to the wash station and realize that she is too short to get her head in the sink while lying back. They decide to put a booster seat under her. I can hear two stylists trying to work this out and they are worried she will slide off the booster and out of the chair. They call Jaime over to stand at her feet and make sure she doesn’t slide. Then, the two stylists work together to wash her hair gently so that she isn’t startled or afraid. The three of them are crowded around her. Again, Mrs. Huntington just grins like happy monkey. She is calm and lets them take care of her.

Afterward they take her back to the chair and blow dry her hair and fix it. She relaxes into the seat as the warm air blows and the stylist runs her fingers through Mrs. Huntington’s hair. She finishes before me since I also had my eyebrows waxed. I see Jaime help her to the lobby area. The anxiety comes back now. About every two minutes she turns to look for me. Like a little girl waiting for her mother in a crowded shop, she seems worried that she will lose me.

My hair finally is finished and I walk over to her, “Look at you! I love your hair! What a pretty hairstyle!”

She lights up and smiles. “I like yours, too!”

I take her hand and off we go. I’m so grateful for people who care and take the time to help.

 

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