Remembering My Hat

14th November 2014

CABS/CPA seminar on innovative methods for dementia research: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 14:29

My usual erratic and partial notes from a seminar. Comments in square brackets my own responses.

Sarah Campbell, Univ of Manchester

Embodying life story work: Multi-sensory appearance biographies

‘Hair & Care’ project (Richard Ward PI) combined with ‘Dementia and Dress’ study (Julia Twigg PI)

Why is appearance important in dementia care? Why does it matter?

Nufield Council on Bioethics report on Dementia, 2009 “‘small things’ of care are particularly important … the humanity with which assistance for everyday  living is offered, especially with eating and intimate care.”

These studies are both part of the move to embodied research in dementia ‘the body itself must be understood as a fundamental source of selfhood that does not derive it’s agency from cognition’ Kontos 2005[?]

The interview as a multi-sensory event, for interviewer as well as interviewee.

Methods (mainly Hair & Care project, but some from Dementia and Dress one)

  • filmed the salon event (followed 23 people) from arrival to being shown the style at the end, also exits. Camera placed wherever it would fit (small spaces) then left to roll.
  • in-situ interviews – meant it didn’t matter that PWD couldn’t remember things – there was plenty going on at that moment (water too hot, roller too tight, chit-chat)
  • ‘sensory apprentice’ (Sarah Pink). Interviewer went through the ‘shampoo and set’ experience that most clients had. Helped hairdressers lug equipment around (mostly not working in salons), sweeping up hair cuttings from carpets!

Salon performances

  • even people with very advanced dementia still remembered how to behave in a salon – sitting up, bending head etc.
  • salon banter maintained identity
  • hairdressers were often holders of memory, even if person themselves had forgotten – had been going in to same institution for many years.
  • post-hairdo compliments from staff and other residents.

Also did appearance biographies. Most people used photographs. Talked about appearance over lifecourse, daily appearance routines, significance of jewellery, family resemblences. In Dress and Dementia study did similar reminiscence sessions. Some people brought make-up bags. Wardrobes and handbags.


(cc) Neil Moralee

Appearance standards. The importance of keeping up your own standards.

Appearance signatures. Something that stood for them – wearing a white cap for one person – took off his work cap when got home, put on his white cap to go down pub. Still always wore a white cap. His account was that it kept his head warm – would it have mattered to him now if the hat wasn’t white? Yes, in terms of his narrative/biographical identity, even if the colour isn’t so significant to him now.

Sensory feeling provoke memories e.g. older man feeling his own newly-shaved chin reminded him of watching his father shave.

Appearance practices are historically produced but also continue to evolve [biographies don’t end with today. Identities aren’t fixed. Until you are dead? But then, what about death of the author?!]

Hairdressers held lots of memories ‘for’ clients. How can these stories get passed on to other staff?

Imperial Leather soap smell was an internationally shared-experience

Comment from audience: There can be tensions for older men between maintaining appearance and maintaining dignity/modesty when care staff are mainly women.

Comment from audience: One of the sources of difficulties is that health care assistants and other low-status workers (who are the people who actually provide the bodily care, and may have great knowledge of appearance matters for individuals) aren’t usually involved in multi-disciplinary meetings and handovers.

Speaker: Yes, and also the case for hairdressers – they are not on the staff at all, usually – just come in freelance, don’t get any training as part of the dementia-care workforce. Certainly not asked their opinion about care.

Question: Do women get any choice in how their apperance comes out? Is the shampoo and set compulsory?

Speaker: Hairdressers want to give value for money. Shampoo and set lasts very well, especially when lying down or leaning head a lot. Hairdressers tend to have a particular style. Many hairdressers had trained in the 50s and 60s, so this may change in the future [or maybe there will be a terrible shortage of hairdressers willing to work in care homes?]

Speaker: Hairdressers valued highly the touch that they provided. Thought it was good for clients, stimulated blood flow, noticing changes in health via head/hair.

Question: How did including PWD go down with ethics committee?

Speaker: It was really hard! Took ages. Had to work very hard to demonstrate that it was necessary to involve people who could not give consent. Worries about what would happen to the images afterwards.


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