What are some tips to assist my husband with shaving?

Shaving is a complex task and usually one of the first things affected in the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. For men, this grooming activity is a private ritual, so for your husband, who can no longer manage the task himself, he becomes uncomfortable in allowing another person to undertake the task and incorporate it in his daily routine.

His anxiety with someone else assisting him in shaving, even his spouse, could fragment, in some way, his sense of masculinity.

Shaving is a sensory experience, and perhaps your husband cannot fully apprehend when someone else is shaving him and why. Additionally, if shaving was a pleasurable experience for him, and you are assisting him in a different way, he might be resistant in that respect.

On the other hand, if shaving was a chore for him and he typically shaved before going to work, there might be anxiety rooted in the fact that he associates the shaving ritual with going to work afterwards and that confuses him and makes him anxious.

As the disease progresses, your husband will forget the complicated steps involved in grooming and how to shave entirely. Plus, the actual razor is unidentifiable for him, so there’s an underlying fear of it. And, he might simply be embarrassed because he doesn’t understand the whole process or purpose.

Before undertaking the task of this grooming, prepare your husband. Make the environment as pleasing and non-threatening as you can. For instance, have a calming lavender aroma in the bathroom and play soft, soothing music.

Be prepared by having available all the tools — shaving cream, razor (electric ones are less likely to nick) and after-shave lotion. Talk through each step with your husband, letting him know what you are doing. Have some purposeful dialogue with him during the process, preferably reminiscing with him about something that brings him joy and smiles.

If he is still resistant, perhaps another member of the family, preferably a male, can assist you. The male relative, or friend, can also shave with your husband, making him feel more comfortable and at ease. Another option is to treat your husband to a men’s shaving specialty spa. He would enjoy the pampering and his masculinity would not otherwise be threatened.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.