How to Take the Stress Out of Getting Dressed with Dementia


Alzheimer's can turn even the simplest of tasks into great trials. In the middle and later stages of the disease, many people have difficulty dressing themselves. Here are a few pointers to help simplify the task of helping a person with Alzheimer's get dressed.

  1. Shop together. If at all possible you should take the person with Alzheimer's disease when you shop for their clothes. Letting them select some of their favorite items will make the new clothes seem familiar and they will be more likely to wear them.
  2. Buy duplicates. If your parent often insists on wearing that "favorite outfit" constantly, consider buying several identical sets.
  3. Look for simplicity. Choose clothing that is easy to get on and off. Elastic waists and Velcro enclosures minimize struggles with buttons and zippers.
  4. Give them choices. This can be tricky because a person with dementia can have trouble making decisions if there are too many options present. To avoid frustration and potential tantrums, give them a few choices, preferably no more than three. Lay out the clothes on a bed or dresser so the person with Alzheimer's can easily see them.
  5. Give them time. Depending on how advanced the person's dementia is, it may take longer than normal for them to select their outfit and dress themselves. Be patient, and schedule enough time so that delays in the dressing process don't interfere with other plans.
  6. Establish order. Arrange the clothes in the order they are to be put on to help the person move through the process.
  7. Be positive and open. Encouragement and compliments go a long way to helping a person with Alzheimer's disease feel content with their clothing choices. This includes supporting decisions that you may not necessarily agree with. As long as it doesn't endanger the elderly person, let them wear a dress to bed or a sweatshirt in warm weather.
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My dad refused to bath because they asked him to answer yes or no. Big mistake!! Give them two options if possible. Would you like your bath now or after lunch. It's time to get washed, do you want to take a bath or a shower. Questions like those. Always adjust the water for them and make sure its not to hot or too cold and then have them test it and make it colder or warmer. Their skin is more fragile and their sense of feeling have decreased. So what is comfortable for you, probably is not for them. Keep them covered as much as possible because they get cold very easy. Hope this helps. When my dad refused and I visited him and found out, I told him I was giving him a shower...end of story. Told the aide to show me to the shower house...which they didn't want me to because of falling issues and such. I told them I was a nurse and quite capable and they let me do it. He had no problems with it. I told them for future reference do not ask yes or no, ask when or what type.
My dad's an X-Marine, and he is at the state of the first commentor @ 80yrs old. When he wakes up, there is no getting clothes on him, and as well, to get the clothes on him can sometimes turn into WAR! If we're (my mom and I) able to get one arm in the shirt, he pulls the other out, and so on. Extremely resistant is an understatement. But the one thing that we've found is that, within all creatures, short or tall, there is an underlying issue in the morning... Hunger... and after having no luck this morning for about a half hour, my mother made some eggs, and as usual, he was hovering towards THE FOOOOOD, and within this, my mother made the statement "You're not getting any unless you put on some clothes." For which was hard for me to believe my eyes when he started to comply, as he is far past having ANY REASON or understanding ANY PART OF reason that one might present. It is hopeless... And then we wake up the next morning and do it all over again. Hell is DEMENTIA! So, EAT RIGHT, Stop Smoking, and get some excersise! Because in my opinion, it's AVOIDABLE!
Your articles always tempt me into thinking that there really might be an easier way to get my very strong, sixty-eight year old husband, who is in the serious stage of AD, dressed, undressed, toileted, or fed. Unfortunately, most of your suggestions just skirt the issues. There really are no easy ways to do any of this. If he is in a good mood, he might help by lifting his foot to put a shoe on. If not, his leg is dead weight and I cannot dress him. The only thing that works is agreeing to anything he wants and/or walking away and waiting until he forgets that he was in a bad mood. If I got this diagnosis myself, I would probably take my own life. I would not want my children to have to take care of me the way I am taking care of my husband. It is one thing to take care of a beloved spouse, and quite another to take care of a parent.