A woman gently puts one shoe on a person wearing loose sweatpants and a towel sitting on the edge of a bed with the second shoe next to her on the floor

Dressing Strategies for Alzheimer's, Part 1: Below the Belt

A toddler is limp and limber and, although squirmy at times, much easier to dress than an adult. As my husband's Alzheimer's disease progresses, new dressing strategies and techniques have had to be learned. Mainly through trial and error - lots of error.

There are many occasions when Peter is uncooperative. Perhaps because he is confused and does not understand the task, other times, his mood is very sedate, and he forgets to participate in what's happening. Sometimes we struggle to find solutions and need to tweak our processes.

On the floor

The first thing I do is have Peter sit on the bed. He's usually wrapped in a towel, fresh out of his bath. Every stitch of clothing has been laid out on the bed previously in the order I will put it on him. 

Alzheimer's is unpredictable, and we sometimes need to move quickly. An organized pile is a helpful tool, so you don't have to leave your loved one only to find they've escaped while you were grabbing some socks. Or that they've taken off the clothes you just put on them.

Once he is firmly planted on the bed, I sit on the floor in front of him. Starting with his pull-up, bringing it only to his knees. I choose loose-fitting socks as they are easier to slip on without a struggle. Peter's socks go on next, and I'm very careful not to touch the bottoms of his sensitive feet.

One leg of his sweatpants is next, then the second, again, just to his knees. Finally, before getting up off the floor, I slip on his shoes or slippers. This is helpful because it keeps the pants from slipping off his feet, and he is more stable with shoes than socks alone.

Get up, stand up

Peter stands up after I am on my feet. Usually, my outstretched hands will be the cue he needs to help me guide him to his feet. When he's standing, I stealthily remove his towel, directing his attention downward as we guide his pull-up and sweatpants into place. 

Voila! The bottom half is done!

The not so fresh nuance

In the event we're doing a change of clothes because the pull-up is wet, it's the same technique with a twist. Peter is very modest and does not appreciate help with his pull-up, so when our nurse suggested this trick, I deemed her Genius!

Sitting on a towel on the bed so the bed linens don't get wet, simply rip the pull-up at the seam on each side. Allow it to fall to the back and the front after ripping the seams. Peter's hips are much less sensitive to touch than the back or front of his pull-up. Simply add the fresh undergarment, pants, socks, and shoes in the same fashion.

When your loved one stands up, you discreetly slip the wet pull-up out the front and guide the new bottoms into place.

Want to hear more about dressing strategies from the Alzheimer's community and caregivers? Search our forums.

Find part 2 of Dressing Strategies from Lisa - here!

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