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Dressing tips

As your loved one ages, they may start having trouble manipulating buttons or zippers, or may have trouble maintaining their balance. If that happens, they may need assistance with getting dressed. Here are some tips to help you aid your loved one while helping them maintain a sense of independence.

  1. Help your loved one retain their personal sense of style and taste in clothing. It may be a little bit easier for you to help them slide into a pair of sweatpants, but if they have never owned a pair, they probably don't want to start now. Unless there is a medically indicated reason, don't push your personal preferences or styles onto your loved one.

  2. Allow your loved one to dress themselves as much as possible and only step in to assist when needed. It might take a little longer, but it will help them retain a sense of independence and will help keep the situation from becoming stressful or confrontational.

  3. If your loved one suffers from arthritis in their hands or is less nimble in their fingers, they may have trouble with buttons or zippers. These can be replaced with Velcro, which will allow your loved one to continue self-dressing for a bit longer. Elastic waist bands make pants easier to put on. V-neck sweaters or a cardigan also are easier to slip on than a crewneck sweater.

  4. If your loved one has dementia, they may have some trouble with decision making. Rather than asking "what do you want to wear today?" give limited options, such as "do you want to wear the blue shirt or the yellow shirt today?" (This also eliminates the option of not getting dressed at all).

  5. It's always a little harder to put the second arm into a shirt or jacket, so be sure to start with your loved one's weaker arm. That way, you avoid putting too much stress on the weak arm. When removing the shirt or jacket, start with the stronger arm.

  6. If your loved one wears compression socks, there are some simple tricks to getting them on more easily. Put your hand into the sock until you touch the toe, then turn half of the sock inside out. Place the sock over your loved one's toe and slide the sock over the heel. Gently slide the rest of the sock up the leg until it's in position. You may find it's easier to get a grip on the sock if you wear rubber gloves.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.