Getting Dressed with Dementia

Dementia can make routine daily tasks challenging, especially getting dressed. Dressing ourselves is one of the first ‘adult’ tasks we learn to do independently, and for many, it’s a very private and personal routine. Picking out our own clothes is a highly cherished form of personal expression, as well as freedom. So for someone suffering from dementia, ‘being dressed’ by someone can be alarming and stressful. Here’s the best way to help someone with dementia get dressed:

  • Give them options: Being able to make the choice of what to wear is important, but too many options can be overwhelming. Produce two choices that are appropriate for the season/occasion, and let them pick themselves.
  • Encourage independence: Don’t just start putting their clothes on them – lay them out in the correct order, and be available to step in or calmly suggest which item would come next, removing any judgment or frustration from your voice.
  • Provide a comfortable experience: Be sensitive to their privacy when they’re getting dressed, giving them space. It’s also a good idea to have a stable chair or furniture in the room that can be used for balance if needed.
  • Be respectful: Perhaps your senior loved one has chosen an outfit that you deem unsuitable. It’s important to accept their choice and show respect for their independence. However, is the selection is unsuitable because it is unsafe, doesn’t fit, or won’t keep them warm enough, you might want to put that piece of clothing away so it doesn’t get picked again.
  • Organise the closet: To help them when you’re not there, use labels for drawers, remove summer clothing during the winter and vice versa, and keep everything tidy and easy to locate.