Alzheimer's and Shaving: It Might Not Always Go Smoothly

Many men take great pride in their facial hair. There are competitions for mustaches and a month-long campaign in November (No-Shave November) that promotes donations to cancer fighting foundations.

For many, shaving has been part of their daily routine since they were teenagers. What happens when Alzheimer's gets in the way of being able to safely shave independently? For my family, a helping hand (and alternating days) helped my Dad stay neat and trimmed.

Neat and clean-shaven

My Dad shaved almost every day before work. I remember finding him in the bathroom on weekends before church in his robe with a face full of shaving cream.

The splish-splash of him rinsing his razor in the sink water is still very clear in my memory. Neat and clean-shaven was how he wanted to present himself to the world.

About a year or 2 into his Alzheimer's diagnosis, my Mom and I noticed he started to have a few more nicks on his face and neck after shaving. Realizing this could become a big safety hazard, we began brainstorming how to help.

Our first thought was to switch up his razor. We decided to go from a manual razor to an electric razor. Switching to an electric razor was our safest option.

It's electric!

Electric razors protect from nicks and cuts, have a longer lasting blade that is easier to change, protects sensitive skin, and are much easier to clean. The electric razor also let my Dad still shave himself for a bit longer.

He deserved his independence, and we wanted to promote his continued independence with this daily living activity.

The tricky part came when we noticed a few days would go between shaves or there would be patches of missed spots. This meant we needed to have the uncomfortable but not unfamiliar conversation about helping him out in some sort of way.

The impact of caring for himself

We had already had the you-can-no-longer-drive and it's-time-to-stop-using-the-stove conversations, but this was much more personal. It impacted his ability to truly take care of himself.

We wanted shaving to continue to be part of his morning routine. That's the time of day he did it for so many years. It started with someone checking in occasionally while my Dad was shaving. Then it turned into popping in and offering to help.

Eventually it transitioned into a family member taking over this component of care.

Finding a happy medium

As my Dad's level of care increased, shaving didn't happen every day. There could have been a number of reasons for this. Maybe we didn't have enough time or maybe my Dad refused.

We all, eventually, realized it was okay to go a day or 2 in between. We were trying our best, and that is all you can do with Alzheimer's.

Navigating the task of shaving

Like so many things with this disease, shaving is another tricky daily living activity to navigate. Since it involves sharp objects; it is most important to keep your loved one safe in the process. There may be resistance to the change or refusal for help.

Remember, it might not always go smoothly, but your help is appreciated.

Routines are important throughout the progression of Alzheimer's. Practicing these routines when a loved one can no longer do it themselves instills a sense of dignity. What routines have you maintained? Share in the forums.

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