Having dementia can make daily tasks, including getting dressed, very difficult. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to make the dressing process easier on both you and your loved one if they have dementia. Here’s what to know about what to look for in Alzheimer’s clothing, plus tips for helping loved ones with dementia get dressed.
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What to Look For in Alzheimer’s Clothing
In general, we recommend choosing looser clothing for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Tight, constricting clothing is uncomfortable to wear and can cause agitation in your loved one. Loose clothing is also easier to take on and off. Dress them in layers that they can quickly take on and off as needed; older adults tend to get cold easily, but you also don’t want them to overheat in a big, bulky sweater.
We also recommend choosing clothing that is made of comfortable yet durable fabric that can be machine washed and dried. Many people with dementia are prone to spills and other accidents, so you don’t want to end up with loads and loads of laundry that need to be dry cleaned. We also suggest having duplicates on hand so that you can quickly change your loved one into something dry if they do have an accident.
Whether your loved one is still able to dress themselves or needs help dressing, choosing Alzheimer’s-specific clothing can help make the dressing process easier on everyone involved. Alzheimer’s clothing for self-dressing includes helpful features such as magnetic zippers, elastic waistbands and pull-on styles that make it easier to dress themselves. Alzhimer’s clothing for assisted dressing features open-back designs and snap closures to make dressing someone else a breeze.
If your loved one tends to disrobe at inopportune times, you can find anti-strip jumpsuits that are difficult to remove on purpose. If your loved one doesn’t disrobe involuntarily, then we recommend choosing clothing that is easy to get on and off to reduce the chances of them having a bathroom accident because they can’t get undressed in time. Older women, even those who don’t have dementia, often find it more comfortable to wear a camisole or wire-free bra instead of a traditional underwire bra. A front-closure bra can also make it easier to get dressed, whether she is still able to dress herself or needs help dressing.
Whenever you shop for a loved one with dementia, try to choose colors and patterns that they would have picked out for themselves. This will help their clothing to feel more familiar and will show them that you thought of them while you were shopping. Alzheimer’s clothing makes a great gift for dementia patients!
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Other Tips for Getting Dressed with Dementia
Now that you’ve gone shopping for adaptive clothing, it’s time to help your loved one get dressed. Here are top tips for making the dressing process go smoothly when your loved one has dementia:
Get dressed at the same time each day.
People with dementia thrive on routine, which helps to ground them and give them a sense of familiarity. Incorporate dressing and undressing into your daily routine and try to do it at the same time each day on both evenings and weekends.
Consider the progression of their symptoms.
While it’s tempting to step in and do everything for your loved one, most people in the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s are still perfectly capable of choosing an outfit and dressing or undressing themselves. Help them to maintain independence by allowing them to do this as long as their dementia symptoms allow.
Label their closet and drawers.
Finding articles of clothing is an important part of the dressing process, and your loved one might need some help with it. If they can’t remember where things go, try labeling their drawers and closet with visual aids that include a picture or drawing of the clothing item that goes there, as well as the proper name(s), to help jog their memories.
Let them choose from a couple of options.
Even if your loved one is no longer able to choose an outfit from their entire wardrobe, you can still give them choices to help them maintain a measure of independence. For instance, instead of asking them to choose between all their shirts, hold up a red shirt and a blue shirt and let them pick what color they want to wear today.
Lay out clothing in order.
When your loved one stops being able to choose an outfit, they might still be able to dress themselves. Lay out the articles of adaptive clothing in the order that your loved one should put it on, starting with underwear on top, then shirt, then pants and, finally, a jacket and shoes. Putting on clothing in the same order every time will contribute to a sense of routine.
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Give clear instructions.
As their dementia progresses, your loved one might also need gentle but firm verbal prompts to help them through the dressing process. Rather than giving them vague directives (i.e., “put this on”) be more specific to help jog their memory (i.e., “put on this sweater”). Only give one simple instruction at a time to avoid confusing them further.
Try not to rush the process.
People with dementia move slowly, probably more slowly than you, and rushing them can lead to agitation and even outbursts. Even if you are frustrated by how slowly they are moving, try not to show it or rush the process of getting dressed. Instead, let them take their time and stay focused on the task at hand. Allow extra time before leaving for appointments.
Don’t fuss over mismatched clothing.
If you let your loved one choose their own outfit, they will inevitably select items that clash at some point. As long as their clothing selections don’t endanger their health — like wearing a tank top when it’s snowing outside or a long dress they might trip over — let it be and don’t worry about them looking fashionable.
What are your other expert tips for helping loved ones with dementia get dressed? Let us know in the comments below!
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