- With dementia, you need to keep the choices simple. When getting a shirt out of the wardrobe, get two out, hold them up and ask which one they’d like to wear. This means the client isn’t relying on their memory to make a decision – they can use the information in front of them.
- Asking a series of either-or choices will mean that the person has chosen their whole outfit, and will feel more involved, important and in control. Making the process fun and positive with lots of praise and compliments can help the person feel happy and in control.
- Even if the end result is an unusual outfit, as long as there is no potential to cause harm, it is best to accept this rather than having a confrontation.
It can seem quicker and easier to help with all aspects of dressing, even the ones they can do (slowly) for themselves. The problem is if you stop using the skills, you lose them.
- Lay out clothes in the order they are needed. Hover around pretending to tidy the bedroom while they are getting dressed, and if they get stuck, sensitively remind them what comes next, or hand them the next item.
- Short, clear instructions are easier to follow.
- If mistakes are made, tactfully mention it when it happens – don’t wait until it’s too late!
- Label drawers where particular items of clothing are kept. You can use pictures or words, whatever works better.
Change and wash clothes regularly
It is common for people with dementia to forget to change their clothes often, or to be unwilling to hand them over to be washed.
- Encourage them to change because someone special is visiting
- Flatter them into a different outfit – “I’d love to see you in this!”
- Remove and replace the dirty clothing while the person is having a shower
What to wear
- Items that are easier to put on and take off
- Velcro fastenings rather than buttons (same with shoes and laces)
- See exactly what task the person is struggling most with – it may have been something you haven’t thought of as being a problem before.