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She's lost all her bras in her stay in a nursing home. She can put on a bra. She just can't recall her bra size, giving me three different sizes when I ask her.

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Whew, dodged this problem! Mom doesn't need one. Although, she loves to pretend she does? Funny lady at times ;)
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I got mom to switch to using camisole tops instead of bras. Easier to put on and take off plus she likes the idea of being youthful ( my 29 yr old daughter wears camisoles.) she feels more able to manage dressing and actually is less irritated by straps and fasteners.
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country mouse got it exactly right, above. ribcage plus five is bra size. Then figure A-D using the chart. And put her name in all her garments.
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TKD, I got my mother "sleep bras" - they're pure cotton, and stretchy, and a bit more forgiving in terms of precise size, but still make her more comfortable than nothing at all. If you check out what size her blouses are (pick one that you think fits her well) that'll be a start. Whether she really needs one depends on how, um, "traditionally built" your mother is, though.

If she does, she needs to be measured. Ask one of the care assistants to help, but to make sure it gets done properly you may like to print off the following (pinched with thanks from Good Housekeeping magazine):

Taking Your Measure
Not only will a properly fitted bra feel more comfortable, but it will make your clothes fit and look better. First step: Learn how to do the math, so you can figure out your own dimensions.

1. Stand straight and relax. Don't inhale and expand your rib cage as if you're about to blow out candles.

2. Using a soft tape measure, measure all the way around your body, placing the tape measure right beneath your breasts (example: 30 1/2). Add five to that number, rounding up if necessary to the next even number (36). Congratulations: That's your band size.

3. Next step: The cup. While wearing a bra, measure completely around the fullest part of your bust (across the nipple) without pulling tight. Make sure the tape measure goes around your entire back (38).

4. Subtract the number from your band size (38-36=2). The result will indicate your appropriate cup size, based on the following guide:

0=AA
1=A
2=B
3=C
4=D
5=DD
6=DDD
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Bracket sizes like crazy and buy 10 bras. Try them on at home 'til you find one that fits. Three trips maximum. Two (if you don't get lucky the first trip) to narrow down her size. And one to return the extras.
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ThomasKDye, is your mother mobile enough to go with you to a department store where the store might have a bra fitter to fit your Mom? If yes, call the stores and ask what days the fitter might be available.
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Thanks, Jeanne. She doesn't need one, as she looks fine without it, but she keeps asking for one, and I've torn apart the apartment without success. I might end up doing the same back-and-forth you just described in the end.
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Oh lordy, I was in that spot a few years ago. I made many trips to the store. I was on first-name basis with the returns clerk. That's tough. You can find out which measurements to take and how to translate them into a size by looking at any online bra shop site. But my experience is that measurements are only somewhat helpful. It is a starting point at least.

Does Mother really need a bra? If she wants one and can put them on then it is best to satisfy her. My mother is now at a point where she needs help dressing and a bra is just a nuisance. We've removed them from her nursing home dresser. She is just fine without one. But until your mother reaches that point I wish you luck and a lot of patience.
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