Six Dressing Tips for Dementia Patients

April 5, 2013
Helping dementia sufferers with daily skills such as dressing take timing and limiting choices

Helping dementia sufferers with daily skills such as dressing take timing and limiting choices

Caregivers of loved ones of various dementia types may encounter a wide range of daily challenges, especially during late stages of dementia-focused diseases.  Dressing, such a basic daily chore, can prove to be daunting on some days.  We hope these tips will help dressing your loved ones an easier interaction.

  1. Take plenty of time.  It’s a busy day.  However, rushing the dressing task may lead to frustration and tension that could linger throughout the day.  Taking time to allow your loved one to master their tasks at their own pace will empower them and relieve you of one more stress.
  2. Opt out of options. Choices can be a challenge for dementia sufferers and a caregiver can help by providing two or three selections  in favorite colors and styles.
  3. Keep it as easy as 1-2-3.  Caregivers can help with the dressing process by guiding their loved one through the task by providing each item one at a time and using gentle coaching tips such as, “Let’s start with this pretty blue shirt.”  After the shirt is successfully on, hand over the next item and say, “Now let’s put on these pants”.
  4. Comfort is key.  Don’t select outfits that don’t fit well; in general, loose clothing is better than tight, within boundaries.  Clothing should be made of fabric that feels good; soft is better than scratchy.  Favor front-buttoning shirts and blouses over pullovers, but be aware that the actual buttoning may be a challenge.  Shoes should fit properly and should be able to grip the floor and other surfaces so that your loved one doesn’t slip or slide.
  5. Be flexible.  Your loved one may ask to wear the same outfit again and again. You may consider buying a second copy of a favorite outfit so that you can make sure your loved one looks the way he or she wants but is still wearing clean, presentable clothes.  You may also need to accept that your loved one is going to stubbornly insist on wearing clothes that don’t match; take a deep breath and accept this – gracefully.  Recognize that this clothing choice makes your loved one happy and find a way to congratulate him or her.  For example, rather than commenting  negatively, say “Those clothes are going to really brighten up the room” or “You really look happy in that outfit.”
  6. Get creative.  Sometimes a dementia patient may handle frustration by undressing at inappropriate times.  A simple solution can be to choose clothing that has fasteners in hard-to-reach locations such as back-button blouses or a discreet bread-bag tie looped through a belt may be just enough of a deterrent.  Online catalogs such as offer selections designed for many needs.

Caregivers know that people with dementia require special handling and that every person has different needs and requirements.  Use the above tips as guidelines for dressing your loved one and modify as needed.

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