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My mother has early dementia, but is high functioning. She enjoys buying and wearing nice clothes. She has always has always worn… and continues to wear…heavy makeup and tons of jewelry. She wore wigs for years until recently. She recently let her hair go gray (the color is really pretty!) Her hair is parted in the middle. She only combs the front. Her hairdresser of 18 years tried to talk her out of this “style.” My mother thinks it looks so good. Her friends have even offered to help her with her hair… trim it… style it. She refuses. She can afford to get her hair done every week, but refuses. I understand a person should wear what they want, etc… However, people stare at her in public and I think she would be mortified if she realized how pitiful she actually looks. I’m thinking about buying her a gray wig…she used to enjoy not bothering with her hair and loved the flexibility of wearing wigs. However, she has narcissistic tendencies and she might become angry. Any thoughts? I’m prepared to be attacked by a few posters! The comments from her friends and the stares in public are heartbreaking to hear/observe. She’s even been referred to as looking like a “witch.”

“She would be mortified….” But now she isn’t.

If this is the worst thing you’re dealing with now, be grateful.

People who make vicious comments will ultimately either learn to be kinder, or will look like the people they mock.

I speak from the experience of being the bookish “ugly duckling” daughter of one of 5 amazingly beautiful sisters, and the caregiver of the only survivor, age 93. She was so attractive and I AM so dowdy that when I took her to her new residence in Memory Care, several people there thought I WAS THE NEW RESIDENT, and that SHE was my caregiver.

She has now survived Covid twice, and although she still has exquisite skin and silky hair, she is no longer the “fashion plate”.

So, NO ATTACKS FROM ME. I grieve with you for who she was. It’s just not enough to upset her for, or to be upset yourself.

“Friends” who would insult her ARE NOT FRIENDS. Those who stare in public are not worthy of your concern.
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Reply to AnnReid
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Sunnydayze Sep 8, 2021
Thank you for your response. Yes… the issue is probably my grief in many levels. Again, thank you!
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I get what you are saying. It’s not wrong to want your mother to appear well kept and clean. I would want that too. I want it for myself should I get dementia! But shame on those making comments about an old woman with dementia!

My mother has advanced dementia now but when she was in moderate stages she was unable to perceive her situation as it really was. She would wear items designed for a teenaged girl. Even now she doesn’t “see” that her legs are swollen up like big water balloons and she refuses to wear her compression stockings and insists on trying to wear jeans over her edema. She doesn’t understand that she can’t drive or return to normal. She insists on wearing a light pink frosted lipstick (like the 60’s) that looks ridiculous. She has her hair dyed dark brown at the nursing home salon and it looks like death warmed over on her. She steals things from the nurses station at the nursing home. She thinks all the men “want” her. There is no changing her mind or reasoning with her at all. It’s the disease. She has so little control in her life so my attitude is if she wants dark brown hair and pink lipstick and wants a sparkly tank top so be it. As long as your mom is safe and cared for sometimes that’s the best we can do. But, you can keep trying! Be make sure to tell her friends to back off!
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Reply to Mepowers
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Sunnydayze Sep 9, 2021
Yes. Yes. Yes. This is the same situation with my mom. Thank you.
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My advice, conveyed indirectly: When my mother was in early to early-middle stage dementia and still an independent resident at her facility, she began to look and dress like a stereotypical "bag lady." My husband and I took turns escorting her to the market, to her clinic appointments, etc., and yes, it was somewhat embarrassing for me at first, but my husband always took it in stride and I learned from him to do the same. There may have been a few stares by the public, but my guess is that most people understood what was going on. I'm glad we didn't try to micromanage her choices in this regard. It goes without saying that as dementia progresses, there is more and more that is difficult to accept, so perhaps now would be a good time to start practicing acceptance. My mother is currently late-stage, and I actually look back with fondness and humor on her "bag lady" phase -- which is what my mother would do if she were able.
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Sunnydayze Sep 9, 2021
Thank you for your insight. I sincerely appreciate it.
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Hi Sunny, I guess if I was in situation, I would be speak directlyto her friends, if I knew them, stating you know your comments about Mum aren't kind, she has dementia. I tend to be protective...if they know what is going on with your Mum and dementia, then they should be more compassionate and caring instead of judging. I would expect kindness over comments... If it is a situation in a store, I heard someone say oh wow she looks like a witch, I can ignore or approach them ask to speak them tell them I heard the comment state it was unkind and rude fyi she has dementia and its harder than hell for her and me, or simply state My Mum has dementia and your not kind, allowing them the opportunity to feel rotten...which they are...
No one has the right to judge another person...that is simply rude
I think this is a pick your battles issues, and is it important in the grand scheme of things...if your Mum is wearing clean clothes, bathing properly, brushing her teeth, etc, is wearing an out of date hairstyle a big deal, if she thinks she looks and is happy then let it be......if its a matter of personal care, think Teepa Snow had a video on youtube on how to get people to do things like brush hair I could be wrong...If it really bothers you then maybe suggest a spa day with you, full pamper treatment on you you could say " hey Mum you know it would be really fun to get our hair done, we deserve to be pampered don't you think, we could get dressed up go to the salon, get our hair washed, oh remember how great the head massage feels, then we can our hair cut, styled, fingers painted (whatever) then we could go out to lunch, how about it? Sure it sounds like speaking to a 5 year old but its the technique I saw Teepa use...will it work on your Mum don't know but worth a try... I would suggest maybe having an appointment booked with the understanding that it would be okay to cancel at the last minute, if your stylist knows she has dementia she should understand.
I keep in mind Teepa Snow's statement regarding how a person with the dementia is the same person but different...it's true, they are the same person for the most part but things have changed......as caregivers we are their advocates, and sometimes their protectors... ..My Dad struggles to shave properly so he may have 2 days growth on his chin or cheek, he may wear the same outfit 3 days but showered, he doesn't see the mess his pants are in or his shirt with the rip in the sleeve partly due to the fact that since Mum died 1 year and 8 months ago he doesn't give a damn , and he has poor eyesight to boot. I am battling brain changes from a brain injury from a fall plus dementia, a changed personality ( completely different from the old Dad I knew (anger) so I pick my battles, which looks worse pants or shirt, using Teepa's techniques I have managed to convince him that he should change his pants without too much upset.. This man is not the same man I grew up with but he is my father, he worked his butt off for his family, he is difficult, has anger issues, has driven away most of my remaining family, but he deserves help, respect for all he has done for me, kindness and compassion as he struggles with brain changes because he knows there is something happening to his brain but doesn't want to lose the little independence and pride he has so refuses assessment. ..so yes it can be a little embarrassing to take him out with a rip in his shirt or pants that are not looking great, especially in a small town where everyone gossips and knows everyone... but at the same time, I know that it will get worse ( wandering, not knowing who I am, losing ability to walk talk move, eat, drink eventually lying there in a bed waiting to die as the body forgets how to live) . So I look at from the perspective is he dressed for the weather and pick my battles because it could be worse and will get worse...
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Sunnydayze Sep 9, 2021
Thank you. I sincerely appreciate your understanding!
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I had this exact problem with my mom (except I didn't realize it was dementia). She went to a local (very depressed) hair stylist who gave her an awful bowl cut every time.

What worked is that she had to have an EEG in the hospital; they needed to wash her hair afterwards and although mom said "no" to a haircut (I knew she was simply being cheap, ahem, frugal) I said yes, go ahead.

The lady did a fabulous job and mom was amazed at how good she looked.

Can you try some trickery?
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
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Sunnydayze Sep 6, 2021
Thank you, Barb. I appreciate your insight and sharing your mom’s hair story. I think I can apply a bit of trickery. Again, thanks so much!😇😇
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Oh, I think grandma has a great idea! Take some photos of mom and let her see them!! She may not realize how bad her hair looks............oftentimes we need to see ourselves in PHOTOS to realize how we REALLY look, you know? I know that's true for me. I think I look pretty darn good till I see myself in a picture and think OMG I need to lose 10 lbs at LEAST I look enormous!

Try it.........see what happens!! I think she may be shocked at how wild her hair looks and then be open to a new do!
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Sunnydayze Sep 6, 2021
I will try the picture taking. I know… I have been shocked by my own photos before! Thank you so much!😇😇
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You are not wrong to feel this way, my mother was a hairdresser and later a VP of a bank, after seeing one of her friends go through the dementia process she told me that if she ever got that way to please not put her in a place people would know her or let her be out in public around people that knew her "as she used to be" (we lived in a very small town). She too is very prideful and said she would be too embarrassed and would never want to be seen that way and for people to have those thoughts as their last memories of her. So I get why this is important to you.
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Sunnydayze Sep 9, 2021
Thank you so much. I appreciate your post.
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Maybe if you appealed to her vanity, and told her that she would look younger if she combed or wore her hair a certain way?
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Reply to Lilacalani
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Sunnydayze Sep 9, 2021
Perhaps. Her vanity still seems important to her and she thinks she looks great. It's all very strange. To get a clear view into this situation, one would have to actually "see" her. I'm thinking it's cognition related, because it's so weird. Thank you for your kind response.
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It never ceases to amaze me much value our society places on how we look, how much we're worth, who we know, etc.
Whatever happened to manners & common decency?
Who cares whether her hair & makeup are perfect? What about her - her feelings and her happiness? Is she happy? Is she content? Does she even notice how people look at her?
People will always stare, it's natural. Ignore them. Sooner or later they themselves may find themselves stared at for one reason or another.
As one person already posted, practice acceptance. This too shall pass!
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Reply to StillSoSad
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Isthisrealyreal Sep 9, 2021
One of the concerns with matted hair is the ability to get lice and not notice before it is a huge issue.

Some things are not so much about appearances as it is hygiene, if that makes sense.
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Long before dementia, my mom used to say, "Don't you ever let me leave the house looking like that!" Unfortunately, when the day came and I tried to stop her (from looking like that), she just got angry with me. She has gone through many stages. At one time, she was the lady with all the jewelry. She is now in MC and I actually did take her to lunch with 2 different shoes. I did look for matching shoes, to no avail. In that case, I just decided on a more casual atmosphere. On occasion, I will get her to change clothes by acting like we are playing dress-up. The comments and stares will get easier. Put her tiara on(so to speak) and enjoy your mom while you can.
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Reply to Tumblson
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Sunnydayze Sep 16, 2021
Thank you for sharing your experience. You see the complexities involved. Thank you so much.
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