Getting dressed and feeling good about how we look is an important part of everyone’s self-esteem, but it is also something we typically do in private. Assisting someone who has dementia with dressing can be a challenge because it is something they are used to doing independently. Here are some general tips that may help you assist your loved one with dressing.
Staying with the Familiar
First, try to keep the same dressing routine they had before dementia. Did they get dressed first thing in the morning or did they wait until they had some place to go? Keeping their routine the same will help them understand what is going on and reduce confusion.
Give them Control with Limits
When dressing your loved one, it’s good to give them choices to help them feel in control, but you should limit those choices so as not to confuse or overwhelm them. Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt? Would you prefer blue jeans or khakis today? Have the clothes laid out and point to each option as you’re saying it. This will make it easier for your loved one to choose. If your loved one is showing resistance, talk about past experiences that motivated your loved one to get ready for the day, such as going to work, going to church, taking care of the home, etc. Keep the clothing options familiar. If your loved one never wore sweat pants, they may not want to wear them now.
Slow and easy wins the race
During the actual dressing, go one step at a time, and go at their pace. Tell your loved one what you are going to do, and tell them what you are doing throughout the process. Provide for their privacy and modesty by using a bathrobe or towel while dressing.
Finally, when your loved one needs new clothes, take them shopping with you and let them choose the items they like. This will make the clothes seem more familiar and they will be more likely to wear them. If your loved one typically has a “favorite outfit,” buy duplicates so they will always have their favorite outfit clean and ready to wear.