A study has highlighted how important hairdressing and styling is for people with dementia as part of their care plan.

Going to the hairdresser can be an enjoyable treat for anyone – you’re pampered, primped and made to look and feel good.

But for someone with dementia, it can be all that, plus a source of sensory cues, memory triggers and much-needed support.

That’s what researchers from the Universities of Stirling and Manchester have said this week. In the Hair and Care Project, research conducted by Richard Ward of Stirling University and Sarah Campbell and Prof John Keady from Manchester University, focused on how hair care could support people with dementia.

Over a period of 10 months, researchers interviewed, filmed and observed people in eight different care-based salons, as well as meeting and accompanying hairdressers that did home visits for people with dementia.

Their research found that a salon visit could provide sensory cues linked to appearance (through scents and perfume) which could be useful for reminiscence. What’s more, hairdressers are often ‘unofficial therapists’, providing emotional support and a close and regular relationship for people with dementia. The researchers identified them as ‘keepers of stories’ who could remind people of forgotten details.

Richard Ward, a senior lecturer in Dementia Studies, said:

‘Hairdressing and hair care are integral to the everyday support that people with dementia receive as part of their care. Yet, until now this area has been overlooked by research and policy in the UK and internationally.

‘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. Appearance-related support could play a far more active role not only in supporting person-centred care but in enhancing the identities, self-expression and social participation of people with dementia throughout their journey with the condition.’

It’s why many care homes are cottoning on to the power of a bit of hair pampering and installing their own hair salons within the homes, often decked out in a retro style to help trigger memories. And who can resist a bit of pampering?

Source: stir.ac.uk