Dementia and Getting Dressed

5 Ways to Make Getting Dressed Simpler for Someone With Dementia

Wardrobe glitches sometimes happen in late mild to moderate dementia, as making choices and planning grows more challenging. Your loved one may select clothing that's not appropriate for the weather or the occasion.

To make getting dressed easier:

1. Try helping your loved one organize favorite outfits and hang them together on the same hanger: slacks, top, sweater, even scarves or jewelry.

2. Out of the person's notice, remove everything that's not in season or that's needed only for special occasions, so they don't get chosen inappropriately.

3. While you're simplifying the wardrobe, winnow down the closet so that it contains only items that fit and are easy to get on and off; eliminate everything else.

4. Also get rid of too many multiples of the same item (like 25 pairs of slacks). Choosing among them and matching them to tops can be overwhelming, and your loved one will probably be happy rotating among fewer pairs.

5. Suggest the idea of a "uniform" -- a signature outfit that your loved one can put on without thinking. Many people tend to dress this way anyway. (Think of Steve Jobs in his black turtleneck and jeans, for example.) Stress how much quicker and easier this makes getting dressed, while ensuring that the person always looks smart.

Although these steps may seem intrusive, your loved one will probably be relieved by having to make fewer choices.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 5 years, said...

This was great as my sister & I lived it with our mother. Less is better. My sister refers to her closet as an "ADD" closet. Less choices keeps her happy,

almost 5 years, said...

I like the idea of having Mom help organize and put together outfits that she would like. I have already been trying to minimize the clothing in her closet and I think that by having outfits ready to go, it will be easier on Mom.

about 5 years, said...

This advice would have been helpful when Mom went to assisted living. She had two many clothes. but wore the same thing just about. This would helped the caregivers also, No one mentioned clothes but they logged them all in,

almost 7 years, said...

Great article and wonderful suggestions. When my mother was living I did them all except the uniform. She mostly liked bright colors and most things in her wardrobe were colorful ....happy colors. One day a friend came by with a bag of stuff she was going to get rid of and she offered us to go through it to see if my mother wanted anything. It was all like new...I told my friend that I did not think there was anything there we could use...but .my mother picked up a drab brown top with silver stripes through it ...that could serve also as a jacket.. She put it right on and began looking at herself in the mirror...It was so ugly....I could not believe that she liked it.! I could not get rid of it because she would put it on everyday. I would dig it out and throw it in the wash and try to get rid of it but she would be looking for it.. So I finally let her wear it when ever she wanted to. whether it matched or not. I just kept it nice and clean. It made her happy and that is what was important to me. She passed away a couple of years ago....I still keep that old top and every once in a while on a chilly afternoon (like today) I put it on and think about my mother and as I write this I am still wondering what is the mystery behind this old jacket that I cannot seem to part with......

almost 7 years, said...

I think we need to downsize my mom's closet. Whenever I visit her she seems to be wearing the same clothes but perhaps this is like the uniform that is mentioned in the article. I think she prefers her comfortable baggy clothes despite having lost many pounds in the last few years. And every outfit must be topped by a white cardigan sweater. She has at least five because they get stained so easily, but she never ever wears the navy, green, or red sweaters which are brand new and hanging in her closet. Good information here.