As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, many caregivers struggle with some basic tasks such as dressing their patients. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s it may be a challenge dressing the parient but as the disease progresses, it becomes more of a task, especially in the mid to late stages of the disease.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, caregivers can take the simple approach, placing clothes in plain view at the end of the bed or on a chair. This will generally be all that is needed to prompt your patient to dress. As Alzheimer’s progresses, you may have to use a combination of verbal and physical cues to prompt your loved one to start dressing. In the latter stages of the disease, it is usually the caregiver who will be responsible for dressing the Alzheimer’s patient.
There are some basic tips that can be used when dealing with daily living tasks such as dressing:
- Keep things simple
- Be social, talk to your loved one first, concentrating on the task of dressing second
- Plan things in advance
- Ensure that your patient is paying attention to you before you start and if you’re speaking to them, do it at eye level, and not from above.
If as a caregiver you are experiencing problems dressing your patient, you may find this could be caused by a number of reasons. The Alzheimer’s patient may find they have too many items of clothing to choose from. Their closet may be packed with a variety of clothes and they may have an inability to choose something appropriate. Limit the selection available in the early stages of the disease to avoid confusion and allow them a greater opportunity of remembering where certain items are located.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, you may find your patient forgetting the proper order for putting on their clothes. You can assist by providing verbal cues and passing them the clothes in the order they are to be worn. This can also help minimize distraction from other sources. As a caregiver, you may also notice your patient struggling to select appropriate clothing for both the weather and occasion. Planning ahead and providing their clothing in advance can be a simple solution for this.
Be aware that some people suffering from Alzheimer’s will want to wear the same clothes every day. This may be caused by them having a certain familiarity with a particular outfit. They may also have difficulty in telling dirty from clean clothes. Planning the outfits to be worn in advance can minimize the confusion for the Alzheimer’s patient when it comes to dressing.
Some Alzheimer’s patients become embarrassed when dressing, especially if they have to do it in front of the caregiver. Remember, as the disease progresses they have difficulty remembering who people are and identifying objects. Ensuring some degree of privacy during dressing can help alleviate the feeling of embarrassment.
Be careful of the clothes being selected for Alzheimer’s patients. Motor skills become inhibited as the disease progresses and Alzheimer’s patients will have difficulty with zippers, buttons and other fasteners. Be prepared to lend assistance when required and never rush the Alzheimer’s patient who is struggling fastening their clothes. This can be simple as holding out the clothing item, putting a hand into a sleeve and starting to fasten the item. This could then cause the Alzheimer’s patient to start the process themselves.
Some caregivers also struggle with their loved one undressing in public. If this occurs, it could be possible that the Alzheimer’s patient may be uncomfortable in their clothes or it no longer fits. Assess the clothing being worn and determine if there is a problem the Alzheimer’s patient may be having difficulty communicating about.
Never forget the basics of providing the Alzheimer’s patient the best care possible. Provide lots of encouragement and lots of praise. This will not only make the atmosphere more pleasant for the person with Alzheimer’s but make the caregiver’s life just a little easier when it comes time to dress those they care for.