Chapter 1: Personal hygiene

Face and hair care

Most things she continued to do herself. We had to watch for opportunities, not push too much. At first, she let me dry her hair; later, she let me wash it.

All people who are ill will feel better when they know their face and hair are clean. If the person who is ill is no longer able to wash their own face, you can use a damp facecloth and gently wipe their face and hands. Below are some additional and helpful ideas to help you care for the face, nose, and hair of the person who is ill. Click each phrase to reveal helpful information.

Some people feel better when they follow their regular routines. Women who regularly wear makeup may want assistance in putting it on. Men who are used to shaving every day will likely appreciate remaining clean shaven. Always use caution when shaving someone with a safety razor and when trimming a moustache or beard with scissors.

Some medications cause women to grow more facial hair, and they may want this to be removed. Some people may want to check their appearance with the help of a small hand mirror, while others may be less concerned about how they look.

At the very least, the person who is ill will feel better and refreshed when their face feels clean.

If the person who is ill is receiving oxygen through tubes placed just inside each nostril, the inside of their nose may feel dry. Using a water-based lubricant can help make the nose feel better. Clipping and trimming nasal hairs may also be helpful.

Petroleum-based lubricants such as Vaseline® are not recommended for nose care when oxygen tubing is being used.

Illness tends to make people perspire, making their hair damp and sometimes tangled. Brushing someone’s hair regularly can be a thoughtful gesture. Hair can be washed in the shower or tub, at the kitchen table with a basin, or in bed surrounded by soaker pads to prevent the bed from getting wet.

How to wash a person’s hair in bed:

  1. Organize towels, containers to hold clean and dirty water, shampoo, and the person’s regular comb or brush. 
  2. Gently move the person to the edge of the bed so that their head is slightly over the edge. 
  3. Cover the bed with garbage bags or “soaker pads” to keep it from getting wet, and place a pail on the floor below to catch the dirty water. 
  4. Wet the person’s hair with clean warm water, and gently shampoo and massage the person’s head. 
  5. Rinse well using warm water, collecting the water in the pail on the floor.

Another option for washing hair in bed is to use commercial shampoo caps. These products are often available in pharmacies or shops that sell medical equipment. Shampoo caps are infused with a rinse-free shampoo and conditioner for single use. The cap is warmed in the microwave. The hair is massaged through the cap for several minutes, and then the cap is removed. No rinsing is required.

Haircuts can also be given at home, in hospice, or in hospital. Consider asking the person’s regular hairdresser to come out to cut or style the person’s hair.

Watch the video for a demonstration and tips on caring for hair.

Personal Hygiene - Caring for Hair from Canadian Virtual Hospice on Vimeo.