May 27, 2021
Getting dressed and basic grooming may seem simple when you have your health, but for those with medical conditions, it can be a trial in itself. Those who are recovering from surgery and those who face chronic pain and health problems understand just how challenging the daily ritual of getting dressed can be. For those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, basic self-care is one of the hardest things to maintain as the condition progresses. As a caregiver, loved one, or spouse of those living with dementia, there are some critical tips to keep in mind. We have put together a list of the 5 things you need to know about dressing a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will need more time than others to get dressed. It is important to give them time to choose their clothing if their outfits are not already preselected. Keep in mind that at times their choices may not reflect the current season, or they may be missing key pieces to their outfit. Their color choices may also seem strange to others as the condition progresses. While it may seem simple to just select and dress the person, it is important to allow them to make their own decisions for as long as possible.
As the disease progresses, it is common for those suffering from dementia to have trouble choosing outfits or even putting them on. They may forget how to wear a specific type of garment or even forget how to operate zippers and buttons. Not only is this frustrating to the person, but it is also often frightening as well. Avoid rushing them or showing anger, this can cause anxiety, anger, and fear in a person with dementia. Keep in mind that they don’t have control over their mind and that will often make even the smallest task seem overwhelming.
One way to help make getting dressed easier is by simplifying the available choices. Fill their closets and drawers with breathable and lightweight easy-to-clean clothing. Make sure that all the clothing options available are right for the season. If it is summertime, consider storing winter clothes in another room to
reduce confusion and prevent excess frustration. Reducing the number of options will help prevent panic and also make it easier for them to pick an outfit for the day. Stick to populating their drawers and closets with 2-3 of their favorite colors. This will ensure they are always happy with their clothing choices, and it will also help limit jarring color matches.
Simple clothing is always the best for people with dementia. Avoid complicated closures and tight-fitting items. You can swap out zippers for Velcro if you notice they have trouble with dexterity. Clothing should also fit loosely at the hips and waist to encourage easy movement. For shoes, always ensure that non-slip shoes are available. Loss of balance and dizziness is quite common with dementia, providing non-slip shoes that are comfortable will help reduce accidents.
The actual process of getting dressed may more difficult for some than actually choosing their outfits. One way to work around this roadblock is by organizing the process. Consider laying out their clothing choices in the order they should be worn. This will help them to remember the steps correctly and reduce anxiety and frustration. If they require a bit more hands-on care, consider handing them their clothes one item at a time. Instead of saying, “get dressed”, give a simple but direct instruction such as “put your legs in the trousers” to help them along.
It is normal for those suffering from dementia to prefer layers of clothing. Always allow them to wear what they like so long as they don’t run the risk of getting overheated. It is also important to always be flexible. Often a person with dementia will want to wear the same thing every day, instead of berating their choices, provide several of the same items to maintain proper hygiene.
Many people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia often forget how to complete basic grooming practices. Combing their hair, shaving, clipping their nails, and even brushing their teeth are tasks often left undone without supervision. It is important to help them retain these skills and routines for their health. If they are used to getting professional hair care services, consider maintaining their appointments. If it is too difficult for them to go out in public, then hire a barber or beautician to come to their home instead.
It is a good idea to continue using their preferred brands and toiletries to encourage the continuation of their regular grooming habits. If they have trouble remembering how to complete their grooming, have them follow your movements as you groom yourself. This will give them a visual cue that will help them remember how and what to do without increasing their frustration.
It is important to reduce the chance of accidents occurring with people who suffer from cognitive conditions.
One of the easiest ways to do so is to make sure their clothing is free from loose strings and buttons. Lost strings on the hem of a pant or skirt can easily cause a person to trip and fall. Loose strings can also get caught on doors or handles and cause a person to lose their balance more easily. While loose buttons may not be inherently dangerous, it is easy for them to fall into a person’s food or drink and become a choking hazard.
Make a point of buying clothing that fits properly. Too tight Clothing will be uncomfortable and can increase anxiety and agitation in dementia patients. Clothing that is overly loose will be hard to wear and can easily cause accidents. Loose, comfortable clothing will give them the freedom of movement they need while also allowing them to maintain a stylish appearance.
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