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Alzheimer's Dressing Tips for Caregivers

March 19, 2023
Alzheimer's Dressing Tips for Caregivers
Clothing choices, the act of dressing, and other aspects of daily care have unique challenges when it comes to helping a loved one who lives with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Reprint with permission.

CircleOf is proud to be a partner on Joe and Bella's adaptive clothing.

With our partnership, we will support caregivers and those that they assist with practical solutions. Joe&Bella's mission is to bring more dignity, joy, and ease to the lives of older adults and those who care for them and – in doing so – help older adults rediscover and express their identities through what they wear. Care gets better together.

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Common Dressing Challenges and Solutions

Many aspects of daily care are challenging when helping a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. While getting dressed may become frustrating for someone with later stages of Alzheimer's, these tips can help simplify the process.

We spoke with Hadi Finerty, the Senior Manager of Education & Community Volunteers at the Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter, who gave us some practical tips for Alzheimer's caregivers around some common challenges caregivers face when helping their loved ones get dressed and undressed.

Closet Overload Problems

A full closet gives way too many options. Many adults with Alzheimer’s will feel overwhelmed with too many choices and will not only struggle to make a decision but can become agitated and frustrated or try to avoid changing clothes.

A cluttered closet with little space and belts hanging over the bar can be confusing for someone with dementia

Closet Overload Tips

Early Stage:

  • Remove most clothes from closets and drawers.
  • Select about four clothing options max for them to choose from.
  • But make sure all clothing combinations match.
  • Place the clothes selection on a non-patterned background in the order they will put them on.

Mid-to-Late Stage:

  • You can transition here by having a phase where they have two options.
  • Lay out their clothes for them.
  • Hand them one clothing item at a time.
  • Help guide the dressing process
“Four outfits are too many choices for most people with dementia at later stages,” according to Hadi Finerty of The Alzheimer's Association.

Dressing Confusion Problems

Joe & Bella Blog | Clothing for Alzheimer's Patients

Your loved one may experience difficulty putting on or taking off their clothes. Find and choose clothing that's easy to wear and take off to maintain a sense of independence.

As the disease progresses, sometimes those simple tasks get more difficult. For example, they might want to button the shirt themselves but struggle with buttons that require fine motor skills.” - Hadi.

Dressing Confusion Tips

Early Stage:

If they seem able to complete some tasks independently, it’s best to allow them to remain as independent as possible. Pay attention and make adjustments as needed.

  • Provide direct, clear instructions for how they must dress for an occasion, weather, and temperature.
  • Give simple, helpful directives and allow them time to process them before repeating them. For example: “Put your left arm in the sleeve hole."
  • Demonstrate the action if needed.
  • Dignity is critical; help them with each step if they struggle physically.

This is an excellent time to try Adaptive Clothing from Joe&Bella for independent dressers. Clothing with minor enhancements, like two long side zippers for quick & easy changing, can make the dressing process much more manageable. These beautiful pants have a three-zipper system to make dressing easier.

Mid-to-Late Stage

  • Provide more hands-on help.
  • Use clear and direct instructions, but increase the amount of assistance you provide.
  • Use adaptive clothing for assisted dressers.
  • Try out one of these “open-back” tops that open up like a hospital gown, so your loved one doesn’t have to raise their arms over their head when dressing.
“I love that the pants have magnets. I think that is amazing! You don't have to worry about a zipper fly down. - Hadi

Skin Sensitivity and Fit Problems

Some Alzheimer’s patients get more sensitive to touch, which can impact the kind of clothes they like to wear. So look for signs that skin sensitivity is occurring.

Skin Sensitivity Tips

If they get agitated or refuse to change out of clothes, or refuse to put on certain clothes, new skin sensitivity may be the issue.

If you observe fidgeting or pulling, that can mean that the clothes are too rough or uncomfortable for their skin. Swap the clothing items out for something more soothing or comfortable. Find loose-fitting clothing with fabric that won’t irritate sensitive skin.

Clothing Fit Problems

Bodies constantly change as we age, so how clothes fit will also change. Comfortable waistbands and stretchy adjustable fabrics that do not trap moisture are critical.

Sometimes, those with Alzheimer’s will struggle to communicate that their clothes are too tight. For example, if your loved one is complaining about stomach pain, check first to see if his pants or belt are secured too tightly.

Clothing Fit Tips

Caregivers need to be hyper-aware of changes and monitor how they affect their loved ones’ comfort levels. For example, no one is comfortable in ill-fitting clothing.

A situational example is whether they spend most of their days sitting. In this case, a pair of pants tailored for those who sit most of the day significantly increases their comfort.

Wear pants for older adults that ensure the waistband is comfortable and will never get too tight.

Aggressive Behavior During Changing Problems

Your loved one exhibits aggressive behavior, making it difficult to get them dressed or undressed.

Aggressive Behavior Changing Tips

Empathy first. Your loved one is suffering from a disease, and you should work not to take what they say or do personally. You are healthy and can remain calm, helpful, and direct with your communication.

Staying curious and kind and discovering which part of the dressing process triggers them might help find the best solution for you both. Here are some questions that will help you through your efforts.

Are they overwhelmed by having to make too many decisions? Are they frustrated that the process is complex? Do they not like clothes? Do they not fully understand your instructions?

If you need to help them when dressing, use adaptive clothing, like open-back tops, so you can stand behind them instead of in front of them when getting them dressed. This can reduce the chance that they can physically interfere with the dressing process or make unnecessary contact with you.

“Remember to meet the disease where it's at. It's essential not to criticize. Patience is a virtue, especially regarding repetition.” - Hadi.

Compulsive Undressing Problem

Dementia can affect someone's inhibitions. This means they may stop following the usual social rules about behavior. An example is if your loved one removes their clothes at inappropriate times.

Compulsive Undressing Tip

Some adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s might develop a socially awkward habit of removing their clothes. If so, you might consider “anti-stripping” clothing options explicitly designed for adults with dementia.

Joe&Bella have a onesie jumpsuit that is specifically designed to help “disrobers” remain clothed. For example, it has a zipper in the back to keep it secure. The jumpsuit is comfortable and looks like regular clothing but will protect the wearer from stripping in public.

This outfit is for adults who compulsively undress in inappropriate situations. This women's anti-strip jumpsuit is designed, so the wearer cannot take it off alone.

Please consult Joe & Bella's customer service, a professional caregiver, or a medical professional to understand better if this product is appropriate for your loved one.

Joe & Bella are proud partners of the Alzheimer’s Association. In June, they donate a portion of all sales to the Alzheimer’s Association’s charity drive, The Longest Day. To learn more about Longest Day, you can read an interview we conducted with Kim Brey, the Illinois Chapter's Longest Day Manager at The Alzheimer’s Association.

Have questions or need some help?

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) provides support, services, and education to individuals, families, and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide and fund research for treatment and a cure.

AFA’s National Toll-Free Helpline is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) to answer questions and provide referrals to local resources. Connect by calling 866-232-8484 or live chat by clicking the blue icon in the lower right-hand corner of the page.

Partners in this Article

Joe&Bella's motto is "Dress Without Stress!" They are an innovative adaptive clothing for men and women - so a new generation of older adults can continue feeling great and looking great.

Original article was written on June 27, 2022 and is located on their corporate website:

About the author: Jimmy is the Co-Founder of Joe & Bella, a new brand that is developing modern adaptive apparel for seniors. He has a deep personal and professional connection to this audience, including residents of care communities, their families, and caregivers. For more information, please visit: http://www.JoeandBella.comWhen you are no longer able to dress yourself, your world is often turned upside down. Physical and cognitive needs can change quickly. But who we are at our core remains unchanged. Living with age-related changes does not mean, for example, wearing clothes that don’t look or feel like you. What we wear is a part of our identity.

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