Do you remember learning to tie your shoes? I remember having a big shoe in our kindergarten class that we practiced on. I felt so grown-up when I could tie my own shoes.
Dressing yourself is one of those basic activities that make us feel like an adult, so facilitating your mom’s or dad’s ability to dress themselves is important for helping them maintain their dignity.
Tips for Selecting Clothing
Think about the types of clothing that you purchase for them. The aim of the clothing is to make them feel good about themselves, while making it easy for them to dress themselves. Do not overlook accessories as those small touches can help them feel polished in their appearance. It also gives care staff an opportunity to compliment them, which helps build self-esteem.
Footwear is important. Choose shoes that fit well and are not too loose. Avoid sticky or gum sole type shoes that can cause them to trip.
Slip on shoes are easier to put on, particularly when it gets difficult to bend over. Velcro strap sandals can also be a good choice.
Tops and Pants
Choose tops that have easy to use front fasteners such as zippers or Velcro. Sweaters can go over tops to add warmth. Your mom or dad will be more susceptible to getting chilled, so make sure they have sweaters or shawls to wrap around their upper body.
Pants with an elastic waistband are also helpful. They are easier to remove. As well, they stay up without requiring a belt. Belts may be part of feeling well dressed for a man but keep an eye on their use. Sometimes a change in weight or body shape can make them ineffective for keeping pants up. The last thing you want is for your parent to stand up and have their pants around their ankles. As well, the abdomen may become more sensitive to a snug belt.
Think about the undergarments that your mom or dad wears as well. Proper undergarments also help maintain dignity, so don’t neglect them.
For women, it is easier to buy long (knee high, thigh high) socks rather than nylons. As well, some women may find that bras that open in the front are easier to put on. For men, boxer shorts may be easier to put on.
To make it easier for your mom or dad to get dressed on their own, you may group together the tie or scarf that goes with the shirt or outfit. You may also want to keep the belt looped through the pant loops to make it easier for them to put on the pants.
Helping Them Dress
At a certain point your mom or dad will need some assistance in dressing. Focus on making this a positive experience and use it as a time to bond. The act of dressing is an intimate one, so you want to make sure you are giving them as much privacy as possible. If they are in a care setting, make sure the blinds are drawn and doors are closed when helping them dress.
When you are helping them choose their clothing, give them two options and let them choose. Create a positive experience by complimenting them on how nice they look. Don’t neglect accessories that will make them feel well put together. Nail polish for a woman and cufflinks for a man are two small ways to make them feel special.
Lay out the clothing they are going to wear in the proper sequence. For example, put the tie under the shirt and the underwear on top of the pants. As well, ensure that all the zippers, buttons and Velcro are undone or open. Finally, make sure the room temperature is warm enough and that they have had a chance to use the bathroom.
Give them time to dress and allow them to do what they can by themselves. If they have a weaker side, use the weaker arm first then the stronger one when putting on tops. If you must assist them in dressing, make sure you are telling them everything you are going to do before you do it. Startling your mom or dad when trying to dress them can escalate the interaction into a confrontation.
Pay attention to their personal grooming as well. It is likely that your dad likes to feel clean-shaven and that your mom will appreciate having her hair and nails taken care of. These small details go a long way to making them feel loved and cared for.
Helping your mom or dad maintain a dignified appearance will add to their quality of life. It will also impact the way others interact with them and can help build self-esteem. So pay attention to these details.
Do you need help in the area of Dementia Care? Check out this available resource: Fit Minds Family Caregiver Program
Nicole has trained hundreds of professional and family caregivers who have touched the lives of thousands of individuals living with a cognitive impairment. Nicole also holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Master’s in Law from Queen’s University specializing in Negotiations and is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging.