Health & Longevity

Haircare Tips for Bedridden People and Their Caregivers

Many of us have either experienced or witnessed the many issues that a patient’s hair can experience during a prolonged period of being bedbound and sick.

The good news is that, with a bit of planning and care, these issues are entirely manageable. We’ve compiled a few general tips on maintenance, styling, and cutting, geared both at caregivers and at patients.

How to Maintain Hair Hygiene While Bedridden

First, consider investing in a no-rinse or dry shampoo. No-rinse shampoos usually take the form of a foaming liquid that cleans the hair without requiring a rinse or anything more than a wipedown. They often contain alcohol and other ingredients like a leave-in conditioner.

Dry shampoo, on the other hand, is usually sold in a lightweight aerosol can, sprayed directly on the hair to absorb excess oil between washes. As with no-rinse shampoos, dry shampoos should be a temporary solution at best. They’re good for short periods between washes – if your illness is too debilitating for a weak or so to reach the shower, for instance – but shouldn’t be used as long-term solutions.

This is because, with overuse, both no-rinse shampoo and dry shampoo can cause buildup on the hair, eventually resulting in the overproduction of oil and dandruff. Exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve, in other words. If you’re in a pinch, you can also substitute baby powder in lieu of dry or no-rinse shampoos. 

How to Wash a Bedridden Patient’s Hair

Washing hair while bedridden comes with some unique challenges. Every person has different needs and will have different levels of mobility which means adapting to their needs.

  1. Ideally, you’ll want to get your loved one to a shower or sink to rinse their hair. If this isn’t an option, however, you’re going to need to get a bit creative. Nobody wants to have to deal with wet sheets and damp hair while they’re stuck in their bed, after all.
  2. What you’ll want to do is get out several towels, an inexpensive hairstylist’s cape, some hair sectioning clips, and two reasonably-sized spray bottles. Fill one of them with water to facilitate proper rinsing. Depending on the person’s hair, you may also need a variety of brushes or combs in different styles, such as a wide-tooth comb or a wet brush for gently detangling knots.
  3. Start by placing the towel between the cape and the patient’s neck to help them stay dry, and spread the other towels as well so that they’re both easy to reach and will also catch any errant water droplets. You might consider purchasing an inflatable basin either online or from a health supply store since they’re both portable and compact when not in use. 
  4. Next, prep your patient’s hair, gently brushing out any snarls, and clipping it in sections if needed. Wash portions of it, one at a time. This way, you’ll be able to more easily control the amount of water and ensure a more thorough cleaning. Load your chosen shampoo into one of the spray bottles and add about 25-30 parts warm water to one part shampoo.
  5. Mix until everything is incorporated. Spray the shampoo mixture close to the root and scalp and work your way down, rubbing gently to create a lather. Use a towel to blot the section of hair you’re working on, then rinse and blot it a second. 
  6. This careful mode of the application allows you to limit the amount of water and prevent anything from getting drenched.
  7. Finally, gently mist a portion of hair with leave-in conditioner, then comb and pin that section to the side. Repeat this process until you finish washing the hair, then comb. 

Knowing how to wash someone’s hair in a hospital bed will go a long way to improve their quality of life and increase their comfort while bedridden or while they have limited mobility.

How to Give a Haircut a Bedridden Patient

Another common issue for those with long-term health issues involves haircuts. Because of the constant friction against the bedding, hair can easily become tangled or damaged. Measures to prevent static buildup is also key to reducing and managing damage and tangles. 

You may also consider investing in a satin pillowcase to reduce the friction between hair and pillow. It may be best to keep the hair neatly trimmed to reduce the amount of oil and buildup, particularly near the back of the head. There are plenty of simple tutorials online for simple cuts and trims, or you could look into a hairstylist that does house calls.

If you opt to cut a patient’s hair yourself, it’s imperative to prepare in advance. As with washing hair, ensure all supplies are easy to reach. You’ll want to ensure you have the following tools on hand:

  • Hair shears
  • A lint roller
  • A small handheld vacuum
  • A hairstylist’s cape
  • Towels
  • A spray bottle with water
  • Combs and brushes
  • Foam wedges or an electric raising or lowering bed 
  • Heat rollers or a blowdryer and brush for adding curls

Once you’ve prepared your work surface, comb the patient’s hair to remove tangles, and section it into even amounts. Keep it misted so it has a bit more weight and stays put better than dry hair. Upon completing the cut, use the lint roller and vacuum to collect any errant trimmings.

To add curls, you can use hot rollers with a heat setting, or a blowdryer and brush with the wet setting. Straightening is a bit easier, often involving a blow-dryer and brush or flat iron. For summer, you may also want to consider braiding or tying up long hair.

Finally, keep basic grooming objects such as brushes in easy reach so the patient can take care of basic tasks themselves. This allows them a bit of extra independence, which can go a long way towards improving their mood. It gives them a bit of ownership over their own hairstyling and hygiene at a time when they’re likely feeling quite powerless. 

Being bedridden doesn’t mean you have to have bad hair. If you’re patient enough, you can keep your loved one looking stylish and chic!

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Transfer Master has built electric adjustable hospital beds for the home and medical facility since 1993. We started with a simple goal that hospital beds should allow wheelchair users to transfer independently in and out of bed. Twenty-five years later, our customers are still at the center of everything we do. You’ll feel the difference.