"How Caregivers Can Support Patients Dressing Independently"

"When most of us get up in the morning, we probably don’t think twice about getting dressed. Whether tying our shoes or buttoning our shirts, we take the ability to get dressed independently for granted. The same can’t be said for seniors, who may suffer from various health conditions that prevent them from dressing independently. Some seniors suffer from memory loss and diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. They are either too frail or have conditions like Parkinson’s disease or arthritis that make it challenging to get dressed and undressed.

For many seniors, getting dressed each day is a struggle. However, caregivers should encourage dressing independently and doesn’t always have to be an impossible task for seniors. Whether elderly individuals are recovering from strokes, have bad backs, or are dealing with memory issues, there are steps that caregivers can take to make independent dressing a viable option.

Most elderly adults want to maintain their dignity and independence by getting dressed on their own. While caregivers should always be available to offer help and step in when needed, the following ways can help them make dressing independently a viable option for those in their care.

Allocate Extra Time for Dressing

Because of their age and slow movements, it usually takes longer for older adults to get dressed. This can be slowed further by factors like cognitive impairments, lack of mobility and dexterity, and more. Rushing the process may agitate the senior and do more harm than good. That’s why it’s best to allocate extra time for dressing and let patients feel more relaxed and calmer about the process. This is also essential because moving slowly will result in less pain and prevent mistakes that can frustrate the patients and make the process longer and more difficult.

Store Away Seasonally Inappropriate Clothing

It’s easy for seniors to get overwhelmed by the amount of clothing they have. Confused seniors may choose inappropriate clothing to wear if they’re overwhelmed, like opting for a dress in the winter or a heavy jacket in the summer. Eliminate the chances of this happening by keeping inappropriate clothing for the season out of sight and stored away. That being said, keep a light jacket or cardigan around for layering or for when they feel chilly.

Offer Easy Clothing Choices

One of the major reasons seniors require help with their clothing is barriers like difficult zippers or small buttons. Make the job easy for the senior by avoiding this kind of clothing and putting more accessible options front and center. If they have access to easy choices like large buttons, snaps, Velcro closures, and elastic waistbands, they’ll have an easier time getting dressed and dressing independently. Looking into adaptive clothing is a great idea.

Narrow Down Choices

No matter how old people are, they always appreciate being given choices. However, when it comes to elderly individuals and dressing, it’s crucial to make these choices simple and narrow them down. Instead of offering a senior the choice between all their shirts, narrow down the option to two or three shirts.

For example, instead of an open-ended question like, “Which shirt would you like to wear today?” or showing them a wardrobe full of shirts, ask them, “Would you like to wear the white shirt or the blue one today?” or show them two-three seasonally appropriate options. This ensures that they feel included in the process, don’t get overwhelmed, and maintain their sense of control and independence.

Matching Clothing and Duplicates

Instead of having clothing with complex patterns, ensure that the senior’s wardrobe consists of matching clothes, solid colors, and subtle patterns. For some elderly people, patterns can be irritating and overwhelming, and it’s easier to deal with solids or subtler patterns. Clothing that matches makes their choice more manageable and ensures that things in their wardrobe won’t clash.

It's also great to have duplicates of favorite clothing. This way, instead of them getting agitated about not wearing their favorite pieces because they need washing, there will always be identical versions and duplicates on hand.

Sequential Order of Clothes

Elderly patients with memory loss are easily confused about the order in which to put on the clothes. As a caregiver, one of the ways you can help them is by laying out the clothes in sequence, i.e., underwear, shirt, pants, shoes, etc. Research has shown that visually assembling clothes in the right sequence can help enhance independent dressing in patients, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Modify the Closet or Wardrobe

In addition to limiting choices, another way to make the dressing process smoother is to modify the patient’s closet to include a bright light to the interior. This helps them make decisions because they’re able to see their options. You can also add visibility by adding wire drawers that can be seen through so seniors know where their clothes are. This can make for a more straightforward organization system for clothing. It’s also possible to label different drawers and group like items together for easier access.

Furthermore, you can also swap out pulls to make access easier. Knobs are notoriously difficult to grab for seniors or those with arthritis or poor agility. Replacing these with C-shaped pulls or painting them in a different color makes access easier and allows seniors to see the pulls more clearly.

Utilize Dressing Aids

If you want to encourage dressing independently, one of the best ways to do this is via dressing aids for seniors. These make it easier for them to do the things they struggle with and give them much-needed confidence.

Examples include dressing sticks with hooked ends that help seniors fasten buttons and pull up their pants, sock aids that make putting on socks easier, and stick shoehorns that allow them to put on their shoes without having to bend down and hurt their backs. Devices like grabbers and no-tie elastic shoelaces can also be beneficial.

The Importance of Promoting Dressing Independently

Many seniors require help with activities of daily living (ADLs), i.e., daily tasks like grooming, getting dressed, and toileting. However, even those afflicted with dementia can maintain some independence by dressing themselves or dressing with less help.

An experienced caregiver specializing in senior care can promote independence by communicating with their patient and being patient with them. By encouraging elderly individuals to dress independently, caregivers enhance their well-being and autonomy and help the elderly retain their self-esteem.

Interim Healthcare’s senior care services include such caregivers. Our RNs, home health aid nurses, and other caregiving staff have been extensively trained and experienced in dealing with different patients. In addition to personal care and support services, we offer specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care and a HomeLife Enrichment Program that help patients live vibrant lives and maintain their sense of independence while also getting the help they need. Call us at (636) 717-9292 or fill out our contact form to get in touch with us and utilize our care services."

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