Skill Builder: Dressing

 

This ElderCare Skill Builderä is intended to give the eldercaregiver background information on special skills that caregivers may need on a daily basis. While these guides are primarily intended for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s Disease, they can be used for any frail or dependent elderly person. When caring for an elderly loved one, always treat them as an adult, with dignity and respect.

You should use this guide for educational purposes and as a supplement to any professional training, guidance from a home care provider, or instructions from a qualified health care professional. As a caregiver, you will likely be the first to notice any important changes in physical attributes, eating habits or health status. Please notify a qualified health professional immediately if you notice any changes.

Things That May Cause Problems with Dressing

   Tips and Techniques

   General

      Choosing Clothes

      Clothing Care

      Storage

      Getting Dressed

      Glasses

Things That May Cause Problems with Dressing

  • Physical illness or depression resulting in loss of interest in personal care.
  • Vision loss.
  • Changes in fine motor skills.
  • Side effects of medications.
  • Forgetting to change clothes.
  • Lack of privacy.
  • Poor lighting.
  • Room temperature that is too hot or too cold.
  • Distractions from people, clutter or noise.
  • Short attention span.
  • Loss of understanding about how to get dressed.
  • Instructions that are not simple enough.
  • Inability to make decisions.
  • Embarrassment/humiliation about the need for assistance.
  • Fatigue.
  • Feeling rushed by caregiver.
  • Inability to recognize parts of the body.
  • Anxiety.

Tips and Techniques

Some of the following suggestions may help make dressing easier:

General

  1. Develop and maintain a routine.
  2. Be sensitive to temperature of the room (too warm, they may undress; too cool, they may not want to undress).
  3. Insure privacy – close curtains, doors, etc.
  4. Choose one spot to dress and another to undress and keep it consistent.
  5. Allow the person to be as independent as possible.
  6. Provide assistance and cues as needed and adapt as the person becomes more impaired.
  7. Store rarely used or out-of-season clothes.
  8. Labels drawers and closets to describe their contents.
  9. Place matching articles and outfits together (i.e., ties, belts, etc.).
  10. Be flexible and ready to try new approaches.
  11. Don’t argue or try to force a person to change clothes.
  12.  

    Choosing Clothes

  13. Clothing should be easy to put on, wear and remove – with large front fastenings, zippers and Velcro tabs. Over-the-head, loose-fitting clothing, elastic waistbands, wraparounds and reversible fabric really help.
  14. Underpants should be soft and loosely constructed. A bra may not be necessary for a woman with Alzheimer’s Disease – try using an undershirt or a T-shirt instead. (Keep in mind that a woman who has worn a bra all her life may feel demeaned by being suddenly without one.)
  15. Tube socks are best. Avoid tight socks that can cut off circulation.
  16. Choose slip-on shoes with non-skid soles. (Tennis shoes with Velcro closures work well.)
  17. Try pants with elastic waistbands.
  18. Jogging suits or sweat pants are easy to get in and out of and are comfortable.
  19. If a person likes to wear the same clothes every day, consider getting several outfits that look alike.
  20.  

    Clothing Care

  21. Keep clothing up-to-date, clean, color-coordinated and neat.
  22. Use comfortable fabrics like cotton rather than wool. As clothes wear out, replace them with machine washable, nonrestrictive, no-iron items.
  23.  

    Storage

  24. Clothing should be stored so it is easy to reach. Sort and arrange all clothing by type: hang all skirts together, all pants, all shirts. In the drawer, keep all socks together, all underpants, all nightwear.
  25. Hangers that serve the same purpose should have the same design. All pants or skirt hangers, for example, should have either clips or pressure bars.
  26. Put out-of-season clothes away.
  27. Put ties, scarves, belts or sashes, and other accessories with the item of clothing they go with. If you find that a particular item causes confusion, adapt it or get rid of it. For example, if a woman forgets how to tie a scarf, either fasten it to her dress already tied or remove it altogether.
  28.  

    Getting Dressed

  29. To reduce the danger of falls, have the person dress while seated. Stand close by to give support.
  30. Ask, "Do you want to wear the red dress or the green dress?" But don’t offer too many choices – it’s confusing. Speaking positively helps – "Red looks really nice on your!"
  31. Check to make sure all fastenings are clothes and the clothing is appropriate before going out. As time passes, it may become necessary to lay out the next day’s clothing at night – but not necessarily in the person’s room or within easy reach. If you lay out clothing, do so in the order in which it is put on. For example, the underwear should be first, on the top of the pile, and the pants last, on the bottom of the pile. The socks should be placed on top of the shoes.
  32.  

    Glasses

  33. Make sure that you have more than one pair of glasses available for a person with Alzheimer’s Disease and that you have a copy of the prescription. Choose plastic lenses rather than glass.
  34. Neck cords may make searching for glasses unnecessary, but be aware that the cord may catch on something and present safety problems.

 

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