Dressing and Grooming Someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

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Everyday activities such as  dressing and personal grooming can be difficult for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their caregivers. People with Alzheimer’s or dementia may not remember how to go about daily routines or have trouble ordering the steps of the tasks of getting dressed and brushing teeth. Too many choices in what to wear can also become paralyzing. Establishing guidelines for grooming and dressing can help eliminate distractions, establish independence and contribute to positive self esteem. Here are tips from the Alzheimer’s Association to make getting ready for the day easier for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia as well as their caregivers:

Dressing someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia

  • Simplify clothing choices. Caregivers can make getting dressed an easier process for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia by laying out an outfit for them or giving them an option or two to choose from, rather than by asking an overwhelming, open-ended question like “What do you want to wear today?”
  • Hand the person the clothing in order of how they should be put on, or give them step-by-step instructions on how to get dressed.
  • Avoid uncomfortable clothing such as  pantyhose or high heels.
  • Prioritize easy-to-wear apparel such as velcro shoes and loose pants with elastic waist bands.
  • Be weary of the temperature. Because people with Alzheimer’s or dementia often do not regulate their body temperature, caregivers should monitor the weather and ensure appropriate outfits are worn.
  • Be flexible. If the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia wants to wear the same outfit multiple days in a row or a mismatched outfit, focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Buy duplicate items of the same outfit so they can repeat an outfit while staying clean and hygienic, and celebrate his or her ability to get dressed at all rather than focusing on their bad fashion choice.

Grooming for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia

  • Maintain grooming routines. If a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia has always gone to the barber or hairstylist, then caregivers should continue this activity with their loved one. If your loved one is used to wearing makeup, help them put it on if need be.
  • Show the person how to perform grooming activities. For instance, caregivers can brush their teeth alongside the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and remind them how to do it.
  • Use simple grooming tools. As the Alzheimer’s Association points out, “Cardboard nail files and electric shavers can be less threatening than clippers and razors.”
  • Use favorite toiletries. Caregivers should try to be flexible and allow the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia to continue to use their normal toothpaste, perfume, or razor.
  • Encourage independence in both grooming and dressing activities, but intervene to help if the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is getting frustrated.
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