At some stage in the course of dementia an individual can experience problems getting dressed. A person living with dementia may become disinterested in their clothes, refuse to get dressed or dress inappropriately.
Forgetting how to do such an ordinary task can be difficult for caregivers to understand. When a person looks physically well and capable it can be hard to grasp why they simply can’t get dressed.
Unfortunately dementia causes changes in the brain that can make all the small tasks associated with dressing and undressing complex.
In order for a person to complete everyday tasks they must master several skills that can be damaged by dementia and the disease process. Other health problems like arthritis can also contribute to problems dressing.
Problems dressing could be related to memory loss, lack of judgment, poor initiation, inability to sequence tasks, poor problem solving skills and repetitive behaviours.
For instance, a person may not recall what an item is, how to put it on or in what order. Solving a complex problem like doing up a bra can cause added frustrations.
When you know what the actual problem is you can adopt strategies to make dressing easier for you and the person you care for.
Caregiver Tips for Dressing
If you’re busy you may get so exasperated that you find yourself quickly getting a person dressed. In the early stages of dementia this isn’t always the best approach.
Always let a person do as much as they can. Remember things can change on a daily basis, a person’s capabilities may diminish if they’re feeling unwell or just having a bad day.
Remember to compliment a person on the way they look, it’s important for everyone at any age to look and feel good!
- Consider a person’s normal routine. Does the person like to get dressed early morning or after breakfast?
- Avoid too much choice. Eliminate any clothes that are inappropriate or not worn. Lay clothes out in a left to right sequence or try a pile of clothes in order of what goes on first. Give one article at a time to put on.
- Avoid rushing a person. Are you making them feel uneasy or embarrassed?
- Is the environment quiet and private? Is there adequate lighting?
- Does the person need verbal instruction for each task or a physical prompt?
- Can the person recognise an object? Label drawers with stickers of items they contain such as socks.
- Is the person resistive or scared? Do you need to occupy a person’s other hand with an object while you help get them dressed (such as a brush)?
- Are you placing unnecessary pressure on a person? Does it really matter if they wear the same clothes day in day out? Just buy more of the same outfit.
- Does the person have a health issue other than dementia causing discomfort or problems dressing? Arthritis, stroke and Parkinson’s disease can make dressing difficult.
- Get rid of soiled or dirty clothing if a person has a tendency to remain in the same clothes or rummage through laundry bins. Remove clothing not in season to avoid inappropriate dressing.