Then suddenly, a couple of years ago, she developed paranoia about submitting to the experience. I found it increasingly hard to persuade her, and finally she refused. Her grooming declined, and with it her morale and sense of self; I became worried about her personal hygiene, but had to concede that raising the subject caused her greater trauma.
But Sally got a huge sense of achievement from helping mum with this very personal progress; and it meant a great deal to me to know that my mum’s hair (once her crowning glory) was now clean and styled after more than a year of her own neglect – and that Sally had cared enough and taken the trouble to persevere. These qualities of empathy, patience, and instinctive, practical psychology are what we all hope to find in care for our loved ones.
This feature was first published in the January/February 2013 issue of NAPA Living Life Magazine, under the title 'Haircare: A Daughter's Story'
*Update: mum died in January 2020 at the age of 93. She had been in care for over eight years; I'll always be grateful to the many staff who looked after her during that time. Low pay and poor working conditions in the sector are a gross injustice to the varied skills and compassion shown by dedicated care workers. Government and society should hold them in far greater esteem.