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Dressing the Alzheimer's Patient

Knowing how to dress an Alzheimer's patient with a minimum of fuss can greatly ease the caregiver's burden.

The way we dress says a lot about who we are. But as Alzheimer's progresses people increasingly need more help with dressing. As a caregiver, if you help the person with Alzheimer's to choose what they wear and retain their own individual style, you can help them to preserve their identity.

For most of us, dressing is a very personal and private activity - and one in which we are used to making our own decisions. It's important to enable people with Alzheimer's to make their own choices for as long as they can. If they do need assistance, be sure to offer it tactfully and sensitively. 

Make it fun

If you are helping someone with Alzheimer's to dress, allow plenty of time so that neither of you feels rushed. A person with Alzheimer's may take longer to process information than they used to, and this will affect their ability to make choices. If you can make dressing an enjoyable activity, they will feel more relaxed and confident.

  • Try to use the time to chat about what you are doing and anything else that might be of interest.
  • If the person resists your efforts to help, try leaving them for a while. They may be more amenable if you try again a little later.

There's plenty you can do to help the person retain some choice and their own personal style while making sure that they are clean, warm and comfortable. Here are some ideas.

Encourage independence

  • Lay out clothes in the order the person will put them on. Sensitively remind them which garment comes next, or hand them the next item that they need.
  • If they are confused, give instructions in very short steps, such as, 'Now put your arm through the sleeve.'
  • If they get it wrong - for example, by putting something on the wrong way round - be tactful, or find a way for you both to laugh about it.
  • Label drawers where particular items of clothing are kept, or store whole outfits together.

Keeping comfortable

When the person is getting dressed:

    • Make sure that the room is warm enough.
    • Try to encourage them to go to the toilet before getting dressed.
    • Try to keep to the routine the person is used to - for example, they may prefer to put on all their underwear before putting on anything else.
    • If they wear several layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer, you can suggest removing a layer if it gets too warm.
    • Remember that the person may no longer be able to tell you if they are too hot or cold, so keep an eye out for signs of discomfort.

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Giving the person choice

  • Wherever possible, ask the person what they would like to put on. People with Alzheimer's need the dignity of having choice in what they wear, but too many options can be confusing. It's probably better to make suggestions one at a time.
  • If they live on their own and have lots of clothes, select the ones that they're most likely to wear and put them in an accessible place. This will make it easier for the person to choose.

Buying clothes and Alzheimer's

  • If you're buying clothes for the person with Alzheimer's, make every effort to take them with you, so that they can choose the style and the colors they prefer.
  • Check their size. They may have lost or gained weight without you realizing it.
  • Look for clothes that are machine washable and need little ironing. This will save you time.

Sources:

  • NIH Senior Health, Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's, March 19, 2002.
  • Alzheimer's Society - UK, Information Sheet 510, June 2005.

next: Alzheimer's Patient: Changing Clothe

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 28). Dressing the Alzheimer's Patient, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/grooming/dressing-alzheimers-patient

Last Updated: July 23, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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