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African Head Wraps - the Perfect Accessory for Dementia Patients

12/01/2015 15:36 GMT | Updated 12/03/2015 09:59 GMT

I first met Madeleine Laini on Mary-Jane Baxter's hugely popular millinery course at Kensington and Chelsea College.

Madeleine is the eloquent and talented Designer and Creative Director at Kiyana Wraps, which is African fashion headgear at its best. In fact, such is the popularity of Kiyana Wraps that they have been modelled at Africa Fashion Week London and other world-renowned fashion events. Having attended the Kiyana Wraps Christmas Masterclass - a workshop on authentic methods of head wrapping (scarf-tying), I was extremely excited by their versatility and aesthetic potential for the sick and elderly - particularly those with dementia.

Throughout her life my Mother was a beautiful and elegant person and thus I found the deterioration of her appearance during dementia extremely distressing. When she passed away I was moved to tears by the dozens of letters that commented on her perfect appearance and taste in clothes.

In the years before she died, my Mother gradually became unable to groom or dress herself and eventually lacked the ability with which to select and coordinate garments. And needless to say, her deteriorating mental condition rendered her expressions confused and sometimes bizarre. Although myself, my sister and care staff tried hard to maintain my Mother's grooming, hyper-sensitivity and challenging behaviour made this extremely difficult and time consuming.

My Mother was extremely well cared for (and much loved) at Marlfield Care Home in Alton, however dementia causes changes in the nervous system and sometimes patients simply cannot bear physical touch, let alone the powerful sensation of water. For example my Mother's 'thermostat' went haywire and quite often hot water felt cold and vice versa; she was also extremely sensitive to any physical pressure on the skin. Therefore, although patients are kept scrupulously clean in the likes of Marlfield, their hair will not necessarily receive regular washing with a showerhead due to attempts to minimise physical trauma.

That's not to say it ever gets dirty in the real sense of the word, as it is treated with cleansers in a bed bath context - it's more that it looks lank and without style. On the other hand, whenever we were able to dress my Mother 'up to the nines', she was aware of the change as it was reflected in an upright posture and upbeat mood. And I must express gratitude to the staff for their attempts to groom her whenever they could as the finished result gave her much pleasure.

Therefore, whenever a patient is in a relatively stable mood ie not irritable to the point wrapping or wearing the headgear would cause them distress, I believe wraps are an essential aesthetic item. I also believe that they have many practical applications. For instance they are much more comfortable than wigs - particularly in summer. And they are extremely handy when the patient suffers from excessive feelings of cold due to passing viruses and the final stages of illness. I also feel that relatives who visit infrequently will find the aesthetic enhancement minimises feelings of shock in relation to the patient's deterioration and this is essential if the patient is able to discern expressions. And as Madeleine usefully points out, such headgear is associated with African Queens and thus the wraps are an ideal psychological boost for anyone, as wearers gain respect wherever they go. The overall look and feeling is one of tallness and tidiness - an instant and painless makeover!

If you would like to learn more about Kiyana Wraps, then please find below a video of the workshop:

http://youtu.be/JT8BMRJdN6c

Thank you to my Mother's excellent ex-carer, Katherine 'Katie' Headford of BrendonCare, who kindly verified details of dementia and care procedures described in this article.