Nothing is Simple for the Disabled


Sometimes the simplest things—like a haircut—can cause distress for a disabled person.

Recently, Charlie desperately needed a trim. We live in a senior living community and there is a beauty shop on campus that also caters to gentlemen. To get there, I must put Charlie in the car and drive him around the corner to the building that houses the shop. Then, he must walk into the building and down a very long corridor to get to the shop. This has become extremely difficult for him since the mobility in his legs has all but left him.

My answer to the problem was to go into the back of the closet and dig out a hair trimming set that my gadget guru husband had purchased several years ago. It had never been used but was hidden away, waiting for just such a day.

I told Charlie at bedtime one night that we were going to give him a haircut the next day. He thought it was a good idea, but he didn't know that I had never given anyone a haircut before.

As it turned out, I needn't have worried. It never happened. Perhaps it was because he dreaded it as much as I did, but he refused to get out of bed that day until four o'clock—too late for a haircut. And so it went for the rest of the week.

Alas, I finally scheduled him an appointment at the beauty shop. Today was the day. He actually seemed to be looking forward to it. He would get a little fresh air and some pampering from two nice looking young ladies.

As usual, the problem was getting to the shop. This time I was afraid we would never make it. Charlie had to stop and rest twice on the walk down the long corridor and was nearly in a state of collapse by the time he got there. But he got through the wash, cut and eyebrow trim, and even managed to flirt a bit with the girls.

By the time he was done I had searched the building until I found a wheelchair I could borrow to wheel him back to the car. Whew!

Now the question becomes, how do we handle the next haircut? I am on the search for a traveling beautician who will come to the house and pamper him with none of the stress to which he has become accustomed.

I am afraid we are rapidly reaching the point where he will no longer be able to leave the house for anything, including doctor's appointments. I don't look forward to that day because there will only be one answer to that problem: a nursing home. That is a solution that his daughter, who lives five hours away, does not want to hear, but that is another dilemma altogether.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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I love this post, and the title. For sometimes many strategies for helping fragile people, are similar - but the difference in raising children from helping the disabled, lies in the speed with which children imitate, catch on, respond to connections - so they may have similar fears or issues to address, but they learn more quickly, many other parents and teachers and society are also focused on learning to be good parents and teachers and the support needed for the caregiver/parents.

In contrast, helping those with disabilities often involves helping each person to cope with many challenges throughout the day, and their fears often result in times that they refuse to show up or participate, and helpers feel ambivalent about how to encourage them to not drop out, but participate at all, even at their slow pace. The caregivers strategize alone, for individuals with specific disabilities and also fears, require reassurance, attention, and skilled manipulation at times - just as parents learn to use with children (eg, they learn to ask, do you want to wear the red dress or the blue one, instead of asking the child to choose their own clothes from a full closet).

After years of working with disabled and elders, I have some input on the haircut situation: never tell and elder the night before, of any change coming in the AM. Same with disabled, often. They need their sleep, and worry over any change, so it's far better to let them sleep, and in the morning just arrive with normal routine, and also say, today is a great day, for I've set up a haircut, and you will look so up-to-date!

Have all materials laid out for them - we younger adults may enjoy taking part in choices and alternatives - elders do not, they actually are grateful for someone who lays out their choices for them, relates to their fears and adds reassurance, while working to add each step of the preparation process one piece at a time. Not so much discussion - everything does not need explanation for elders - women often explain much too much, for we are conditioned to think that conversation and sharing feelings brings closeness - I think it's more true that someone paying attention, being on your side, and encouraging you with wry confidence through the difficult activities that seniors and disabled face - with trust in them and clear and simple instructions, they will do each next step, and I do that right through the haircut or trp, and celebrate when it is done (after letting them sleep first, for being active through change is exhausting).
There's a simple step before the nursing home solution. Get a good wheel chair.
I'm the cripple in our equation and a chair brings back the lost freedom.
Just a couple thoughts from someone with two bionic hips and a fused foot plus two ~90 y.o. mothers in tow. Since this beauty shop is in a senior living community, its accessibility needs to be better not only for you but for many others with similar issues. As your husband seems to enjoy the outing, please check with the shop if there is a back entrance to the store, a supply entrance, that you could use. Encouraging Hun to use a wheelchair is a great idea but they are heck to load/unload from a car. Nowadays most grocery/general stores have wheelchairs available to use, just ask. If you haven't got one, consider having doctor order a rolling walker with a flip-down seat so he can go a little, rest a little. Much lighter to load/unload. As you are a writer and blogger, you might want to investigate the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, to see what your rights under this wonderful civil rights legislation may be. A couple good links are and He's lucky to have you.