Often society is focused on appearance. It’s either about how you look or it’s about what you are wearing. Maddening as this sounds…it’s superficial! TBI survivors and others with chronic illnesses or injuries have so much more to be concerned about.
It’s a cognitive skill to remember what goes on first and relearning how to dress. Learning to dress takes persistence, patience, and practice. How can I make this process easier?
Some individuals may need an occupational therapist to help with instructions and assistive devices in the dressing process. Others learn by reading, watching, and practicing. While some benefits from a number of trial-an-error ways to learning how to dress finding out what works and what doesn’t.
By dressing oneself it promotes independence and self-confidence. ALWAYS encouraging independence. Provide ample time to dress. This process is frequently much longer than a young child learning to dress oneself.
Don’t demand your loved one to change everyday. Ask yourself? Are they doing anything to perspire? Are they REALLY dirty? Save yourself the frustration from focusing on the minor details.
See if they understand by asking “What’s the first thing you put on?” At this point if they don’t remember help by reminding them. Know this is like teaching a child, but even harder. Children are excited and have a bundle of energy. Challenged individuals don’t have energy and even though they may appear excited become overwhelmed quickly.
Teach undressing first. Undressing is easier. Dressing takes more planning, body awareness and coordination. It can be time consuming, so plan ahead for everyone. If time is of essence, only help with the difficult tasks. Let them do the easy tasks. Allow realistic amount of time, about 30-60 minutes. Choose clothing night before. Always SIT down on bed or chair to dress or undress. This prevents balance problems and falls.
If one has an area of the body that is sensitive to pain or intolerable to certain texture materials give that a priority in clothing types and styles. Help them decide what clothing is weather appropriate. Is it cold or hot, sunny, rainy or snowing?
Wear clean underwear and socks daily. Clean clothing is hanging in closet or in drawers. Dirty clothing gets put into clothes basket until they are washed.
Selection consider the following
- Time of Day. Morning, afternoon, evening, sleepwear?
- Activity of Day. Sports, dress or special occasion?
- Weather. Hot, cold, rainy, snowy?
Dressing-Sit on Chair or Bed
Dress for weather and occasions. There are different levels of learning from fine and gross motor skills to cognitive skills. Buttoning and zipping is fine motor coordination. Sitting to pull on pants and put on shirts are gross motor coordination. Encourage to always sit while putting on pants and getting dressed.
To conserve energy, while sitting put the weakest leg into underwear then pants first…pull up to knee and repeat by putting strongest leg into underwear then pants.
Always – Weakest extremity first
Depending on one’s level of energy you may need to put on the top before standing to pull up pants. If the person has enough energy to stand after pulling the pants up to knees, then stand to pull up and sit again. You can see this can be a complicated task when working with weakness of all sorts.
- Label clothing drawers with a pictures and word
- Allow plenty of time
- Give only two choices if unable to choose clothing
- Reminder that tags usually are in back of clothing
Provide Step by Step Instructions
- Undergarments should be put on first.
- Put the weakest extremity in first.
- When putting on shirt.
- Pull over head if a slip on shirt.
- Put the strongest arm in last.
- Button or velcro last.
***If you are having difficulty buttoning, leave shirt buttoned except for two or three buttons and pull over head.
- Flat shoes
- Treaded soles prevents slipping
- Velcro closures are helpful
- Slip on shoes
Shortly after injury or use with cognitive challenged individuals
- Clothing that is comfortable and easy to put on and take off
- Loose and elastic waist pants
- Clothing with velcro or large buttons
***Only help when they begin struggling, otherwise encourage independence.