Why does it matter what type of clothing someone with dementia wears?
Although rewarding, being a home caregiver can be one of the most time-consuming and draining roles you can take on in your life. There is rarely time in the day for breaks and the to-do list can sometimes seem never-ending. Something as simple as the clothing you select for your loved one living with dementia can greatly impact your day and routine.
What should I take into consideration when buying new clothes for my loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias?
When shopping for your family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementias, it is important to take a few wardrobe adjustments into consideration. The type of clothing you buy can greatly impact both your morning and evening routines, as well as bathroom use and other personal hygiene practices. Even during early stages of dementia where your loved one may still handle these portions of their routine on their own, you may want to preemptively start buying clothing items that will make the dressing process as simple as possible later on.
Also, make sure that the pieces that are easily removable. Aside from the regular routine or personal care reasons as previously mentioned, your loved one may spill something on their shirt or have an accident and need to change at times throughout the day. As this kind of thing make a person feel embarrassed or frustrated in their own capabilities, being able to quickly and easily get them cleaned up can lessen the impact of the experience on their day.
What specific types of clothing items should I buy for someone living with dementia?
To make for easier dressing or removal of clothing, looser fitting clothes can be extremely helpful. In addition to fit, consider how the clothing is fastened. Buttons and even sometimes zippers can be difficult for you or your loved one to get on or off in a hurry (bathroom emergency for example). If this is the case, pants that feature an elastic waist band are your new best friend. For somewhat chilly days that may not necessarily require a full on winter coat, cardigans are an easy option to bring with you and put on your loved one at any time. A nice warm cardigan can replace something such as a hoodie that you would have to struggle to get over their head.
For footwear, try to find something that can be easily slipped on or off. Footwear can also feature Velcro fastenings which require less fine motor skills to use. Your loved one may like a pair of comfy slippers for in the house and a different pair of slip on shoes for outings. Just be sure any footwear you select (including slippers and even socks) has a good grip on the bottom. This will help prevent future falls and injury.
For caretakers of women, you may need to consider a bra substitute. Bras may rub and become uncomfortable on an older adult, even causing redness and irritation around the band. Many women with dementia prefer to wear an undershirt or a camisole as opposed to a traditional bra.
Keep in mind that although many of the clothing tips shared throughout this article are for caretaker practicality purposes, you should still aim to find something your loved one would feel good in whenever possible. Try to go for colors or patterns they would have typically picked out on their own. The need to feel good about ourselves does not disappear with memory loss. Simply dressing your loved one in their favorite colored shirt can make all the difference in their mood that day.
For more specific clothing questions, Ask Mimi.