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The significance of personal grooming in dementia

Posted on Thu 14th Mar, 2019 in: Dementia DesignDementia Friendly EnvironmentsDementia Friendly ProductsFear Of Reflection In Dementia

older lady looking in mirror

And why having the choice of keeping a mirror is important


A great deal of research has been done into the value of personal grooming in dementia and studies such as the Hair and Care project have concluded that appearance related issues should be given more prominence in health and social care policy and dementia care practice. Just recently carehome.co.uk reported about a care home that had been rated as ‘outstanding’ due, in part, to the way it facilitated personal grooming such as enabling people to have their hair, nails and make up done, wear their favourite perfumes/colognes and use other toiletry products that helped them feel special and pampered.


If we can accept the value in this then we should also accept the importance of allowing people with dementia the choice of whether to have a mirror in their bedroom or bathroom. The reason we make this point is that many care homes have a policy of removing all mirrors due to the issue of fear of reflection.


This is something that can develop, often in the later stages of dementia, where a person becomes frightened of their own reflection because they don’t recognise it as themselves. It can be very distressing because they can perceive the person in the mirror as a stranger in their room (see other posts on this topic here). The widely adopted solution of removing all mirrors does remove the issue for those with fear of reflection but it also takes away choice for those who don’t. Given what we know about the importance of personal appearance, this can take away a valuable source of self-identity and self-worth, and that is counter-productive.


We believe that it is entirely appropriate to remove mirrors from communal areas but allow residents a choice in their personal spaces. We developed our Reversible Mirrors to allow dementia environments to facilitate this. It’s not practical to keep taking mirrors away and put them back up as occupants change, or the needs of an occupant change, so the Reversible Mirror has a mirror on one side and a dementia-friendly picture on the reverse. It’s very easy to switch between the two and is both light and shatterproof.


Fear of reflection does not have to bring a binary choice of ‘mirrors or no mirrors’: a tailored, personal solution is very possible and this benefits all residents.


For more details about Reversible Mirrors, click here.


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