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Gary J. LeBlanc - Dressing Dementia

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I have always said that keeping your loved one in a simple routine is the most important thing in caring for people living with dementia. (The reason for this is because of short-term memory loss.) This applies to choosing wardrobe for persons living with dementia as well. Keep it simple, as in loose fitting and easy to put on and take off clothing, especially in the latter stage of the disease. Also, be sure to limit clothing choices. Otherwise, he or she may become overwhelmed and easily confused. There will be times when you may wonder why your loved one wants to wear the same shirt every day.  Well, there might not be a “yesterday” belonging to his or her memory at that moment.

Simplicity. Let’s start from the bottom-up. I had my dad wearing Velcro-strap shoes. There was no reason to have him struggling to remember how to tie his shoes first thing in the morning, starting his day in a frustrating state. The one thing I could not get him to wear the last two years of his life were socks. I believe the reason was he did not want to wear anything, anywhere, even close to being tight! (Good thing we lived in Florida!) Because of this, I replaced his shoes reasonably often so we could all breathe fresher surrounding air. I accomplished this task by exchanging identical shoes during the middle of the night. He never knew the difference.

Dad also liked to lay his pants across the foot of his bed at night. I would switch them out too, while he slept, replacing both the belt and wallet and making sure everything else went back into the right pockets.

Shirts should be loose-fitting and comfortable. You might want to try more oversized buttons or pullovers, making these garments less complicated. Dad had a favorite, loose flannel jacket he wore throughout all four seasons. It always amazed me how he could wear that jacket throughout the heat of our Floridian summers. It had been washed so often - it had developed a velour softness and became almost a security blanket for him. For a man who wore suitcoats and ties all his life, he was a surprising sight – settling into such laid-back, lumberjack attire.

Go with the flow. Pay attention to what your beloved loved ones seem to prefer. It is vital for them to have a smooth start every morning, which could determine their level of confusion for the rest of the day or days to come. Once again, the “simple routine mindset” can start with the simplicity of a closet and wardrobe.

Gary Joseph LeBlanc, CDCS

Education Director

Dementia Spotlight Foundation