I had my hair done last week.
It’s always a bit of a treat. A few hours on my own, drinking Earl Grey tea and munching on those little rectangular caramelised biscuits while chatting about life with the lovely man cutting my hair. He is called, Gerri.
It is a moment of self I look forward to every couple of months.
He asked about my mum. He always does. We chatted about her continuing decline and he explained that just the day before he’d invited a local charity in to train all his staff on how to help people with dementia.
Dementia Forward is a charity in Ripon, Harrogate, York and the surrounding areas. It supports people living with dementia and their carers. A couple of years ago I volunteered my time in helping out at their weekly singing group and felt like I was making a difference, even if it was just making tea, or washing up (see previous post here)
Gerri and his team have decided to sponsor Dementia Forward this year and not only that, have decided to become a dementia-friendly salon. This is where the training came in. All the staff, whether they were top stylists or new trainees, were given a full day’s training and now feel much more confident about helping their clients who are living with dementia.
I was seriously impressed.
As a child, one of my favourite things to tell people about my mum was that as a young girl, she grew her hair so long she could sit on it.
That was my dream too!
But, instead she decided to cut my hair into a page-boy style. My sister and I had identical cuts. They were horrendous. I just wanted long hair and would put a pair of tights on my head and pretend the two long legs that swung around my shoulders and hung down my back were my gorgeous long tresses.
Mum had her hair all cut off short when she was in her late teens. My dad was a little surprised apparently, when her turned up one day to find her long, girly locks had all disappeared and she’d got a new pixie cut. She used to tease him that he hated that hair-do, but he never once said anything other than, “No, dear, it was lovely!”
My mum used to love going to the hairdressers. She had awful hair, or so she thought. It was very fine, always had been and she loved finding a hairdresser she could trust to understand her concerns with her fly-away hair and who she could while away the hours with. Over the years I remember a number of hairdressers she went to and all seemed to become her friends. I remember occasionally calling in to the salon to meet her on the way back from school and would always hear her raucous laugh well before I saw her.
The most recent hairdresser she went to was a young lady with a small salon in my parent’s village. Loretta. Mum has been going to her for years. They used to get along really well and Mum looked forward to going.
But, when the first signs of dementia started to seep in, I wonder what Loretta thought, because in those early stages, it wasn’t always obvious. It was instead a weird comment here, or a bizarre reaction to something there. It was a comedy double take which stopped you in your tracks, before you then convinced yourself that you must have misheard.
Gradually though, it must have been obvious that Mum was not well. Eventually my dad did go in to the salon and had a chat with Loretta to explain that my mother was confused some days, but this was quite a long way into her dementia journey. Dad, like the rest of us, was not ready to share my mother’s diagnosis with the world for quite some time. So, there must have been a time when my mother caused either grave concern or huge hilarity with her behaviour in that small salon.
It matters not really. All that matters is that she used to enjoy her time there and Loretta was incredibly understanding and as things progressed and Mum got worse, she never once shied away from her role as my mum’s favourite hairdresser.
Even when Dad took Mum to see Loretta and left – looking forward to his hour or so of free time – but half an hour later she had to call him to let him know that Mum was not happy and was not willing to even sit in the chair, and was certainly not wanting to get her hair washed.
Even when Dad would regularly turn up to collect Mum and she would refuse to go with the ‘strange man’ who was pretending to be Stephen. No one believed her, she would lament. Everyone was against her.
Even when Mum would miss her appointments as my father just couldn’t get her to leave the house with him, despite all his pleading, reasoning and cajoling. He was an impostor and there was no way she was going anywhere with him!
I don’t know if Loretta had previous experience with dementia. I do know that in some of my father’s darkest days she was a person who supported him and who made him feel like he wasn’t alone. I also know that the experience of handling my mother over those tricky months might help her in the future should another of her client’s show signs of dementia.
I asked Gerri last week why he had decided to support the dementia charity and train his staff.
“Because we have a few clients who have dementia and we need to know what to do to make their time here as positive as possible.”
He went on to explain that he had asked Dementia Forward about all the other businesses who have gone through the training and are now ‘Dementia Friendly.’
That shocked me.
No other business in Harrogate, York, Ripon or the surrounding towns and villages have, as yet become officially dementia-friendly.
With dementia becoming one of the biggest challenges to face modern society, perhaps more businesses, large and small should take a leaf out of my hairdresser’s book and try to make a difference.
If we all tried to make a small difference, like Loretta and Gerri the results could be life-changing for many and possibly world-changing for dementia.
Miss you, Mum x