This is who it takes: The hairdresser

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Featured, and People & Places.

Hospice Care Week begins today, with the theme This is what it takes, aiming to show the variety of work and resources necessary to deliver hospice care to those who need it. In this ehospice series we’re shining the spotlight on the individuals who make it possible. Here hairdresser Julie Walker tells us about helping women who’ve lost their hair with the Wig Bank at St Luke’s Hospice in Basildon.

 It has always been a dream of mine to run a Wig Bank. I’m a hairdresser and a qualified wig specialist, so I know that wigs can be very expensive and many women who have experienced hair loss would benefit from a more accessible and affordable wig service.

I also wanted to help and support the hospice. I greatly admire their work and had been a volunteer for quite a number of years before starting the Wig Bank.  Holding the Wig Bank in support of the hospice seemed the perfect way to bring all this together.

Choosing a wig can be daunting and confusing, especially for the many ladies who have lost their hair through illness or cancer treatment. It’s hard to know where to start, or what a good wig will look or feel like.

The aim of the Wig Bank is to make sure all women can experience the benefits of having their own wig, regardless of budget, and to give them the opportunity to find a wig that is comfortable for them. Providing a wig for a lady experiencing hair loss, cutting and styling it to suit them, can drastically improve their confidence and how they then approach life. I want every woman to be able to experience this.

I run the Wig Bank once a month on a Saturday at the hospice, offering personal appointments from 9.30am till 4pm. Hospice staff volunteer to help me run the service too. Between Wig Bank sessions I spend time sorting, cleaning and conditioning the donated wigs to a high professional standard, ready for them to be used. I also, when needed, volunteer to wash, cut and style patients hair in the In-Patient Unit or alongside the Hospice at Home staff in patients’ own homes.

It is a very personal service and so it changes from person to person. One session might take one hour, while another might take longer. It all depends on the person and what their needs and expectations are. Most will come along with a family member, friend or sometimes a combination of both, every appointment is unique to that person.

I try to gain a lot of information on the phone when clients book an appointment so I have some idea of their needs beforehand. I ask them to bring a photo to the session to help me understand what they might like and what may suit them. Some ladies want to have a wig that was very close to how they looked before they lost their hair, whilst others want a complete change, which may be longer, shorter or even a different colour!

At the Wig Bank they have a full consultation with me which includes the opportunity to browse the wigs, and try on a few different ones which I can then style to suit their specific requirements. Other than that, my job is just to listen. For most this is their first visit to the hospice, and some will take away the hospice newsletter or leaflets about other services. In return, I ask if it’s possible for them to make a donation.

Hospice Care Week runs until October 13.