Dressing involves a number of steps and skills that can present challenges for individuals living with dementia due to cognitive and physical impairments. As a dementia caregiver, you can make a significant difference in your partner's ability to get dressed by implementing a few practical strategies.
In this blog post, we will explore ten practical ways to make dressing easier for individuals with dementia, empowering them to maintain their dignity and enhance their quality of life. Please keep in mind that everyone has unique needs and the strategy that works best will depend on your partner's strengths and abilities.
- Simplify the wardrobe: Organize the closet with a limited selection of outfits, eliminating unnecessary decisions and reducing confusion. An easy way to implement this technique is by slowly removing lesser or never worn clothing items from the closet, so that the change in wardrobe isn't as noticeable. All clothing items should also be accessible and easy to reach.
- Provide 2 options: Some people with dementia can navigate a simplified wardrobe just fine and others will still find it too overwhelming. Another option could be to provide options for your partner by pre-selecting two outfits. For example, you can say, "Do you want to wear the yellow outfit or the blue outfit," while holding up the two options.
- Lay out clothing in advance: You can also prepare the clothing ahead of time and lay them out in the order they should be put on. Place each item on a flat surface that contrasts with the clothing items, such as a bed or dresser. Add clear labels or provide visual cues for guidance. These visual prompts can help the person with dementia follow a step-by-step dressing routine.
- Break down the dressing process: Divide the dressing routine into smaller, manageable steps. You can do this by verbally or visually guiding the person through each step, allowing them time to process and participate. For example, you can say, "Let's put on your shirt first," and hand them the shirt or provide guided assistance as needed.
- Provide simple instructions: Use clear, concise, and simple instructions during the dressing process. Instead of overwhelming them with multiple commands, offer one direction at a time, allowing them to focus and complete each task. For instance, say, "Let's find the bottom of the shirt," rather than giving complex instructions.
- Demonstrate: Demonstration can be a powerful tool to assist individuals with dementia in understanding how to put on certain clothing items. Show them how to put on each clothing item by performing the steps slowly and clearly. Make sure you are standing or sitting in a position where they can see and follow what you are doing.
- Use adaptive clothing: Consider incorporating adaptive clothing designed specifically for individuals with mobility or dexterity challenges. Opt for comfortable, easy-to-wear garments with magnetic buttons, snaps, zippers, velcro, or elastic, making it easier to put on and remove. Adaptive clothing can facilitate independence and reduce frustration.
- Use visual prompts and labels: Utilize visual aids such as picture cues or labels to assist with dressing. Attach images and/or written labels to drawers or containers to indicate where specific clothing items are stored. Visual prompts can serve as reminders and help the person with dementia navigate their clothing options. You can download free drawer labels from Bambu Care here.
- Allow ample time: Allow extra time for the dressing process, considering the person's individual pace. Rushing can increase frustration, decrease problem solving, and hinder independence. Set aside a comfortable amount of time and take breaks when needed, to ensure a relaxed and unhurried dressing experience.
- Encourage independence: It's easy to take over when you see your partner struggling to get dressed. However, try your best to be patient and provide assistance only when necessary, focusing on fostering their autonomy and self-esteem. Offer praise and positive reinforcement for their efforts and achievements. Before helping, first ask, "Would you like my help?" or say, "Let me know if you need my help."
A few small adjustments in how you approach dressing with your partner can help make dressing easier and more enjoyable for both you and your partner with dementia.