Simple and basic tips to dressing and changing clothes

10 Aug

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?

Underwear Goes Inside the Pants

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?

Shows a typical T-Shirt design with round neck...

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

  • Underwear
  • Pants
  • Shirts
  • Socks
  • Shoes

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.

Helpful Suggestions

  • 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.


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6 responses to “Simple and basic tips to dressing and changing clothes

  1. meesherRequired

    August 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Summer shoes: deck shoes rhat need no socks–indeed, socks would be silly since the shoes is made for sailing, which makes for wet feet.. Bra: sports bra that hooks in front. Summer shirt mesh polo from Lands End or one the better catalogues that will send you a shirt that will last almost a lifetime. Initials on left chest help you keep track of your boobs (humor); summer pants, chinos, shorts are too ridiculous on the legs I have post trauma. Chino material. A shirt hem that does not need tucking in. Winter, same panties for 25 years: 5 for 25 dollars from Victoria’s Secret. Never thrown a pair away except the times I stained them. Pants: jeans or tweeds. Top, turtle neck sweater. Same bra and panties all year, rotation of mesh polos in summer, rotation of sweater colors in winter.Lavender winter snow jacket WITH hood, lavender snow boots. Yes, At my age. Get those thingies kids wear for keeping snow gloves on your person, if not on your hands. I have them for Me! All year wear: jammies that you can answer the door for the postman in. 5 for winter, 5 for summer. Hair in pony tail. Hair in bun. Hair short–Makes ME look like walking bowling ball. (fat head). Love ya Edie. Later,

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      September 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      I loved your idea and have been spending some time writing a post in two parts on comfortable and easy to wear clothing. Thanks so much for your ideas and support. Take care and ALWAYS stay safe, Edie

  2. meesher

    August 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    BTW, from what I’ve been seeing in California, underwear (bras) can have the straps on the inside or outside. I do not aspire to this. I tapped a woman on the shoulder once and in a secretive tone said,”your bra strap is on your upper arm”. It was a black bra under a white slip of a shirt. I was told it was supposed to be that way. Uhhhh. OK.

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      August 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      I guess that’s the fashion-statement we missed out on! Happy I’m not into that type of fashion! I’ll stick to the proper attire attitude.

  3. (Debra) Three Well Beings

    August 11, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I am challenged to think about how much focus I can generate on details and small steps, often clearly giving into vanity…and then I read this list of such basic steps to dress independently. Very humbling! And so helpful for many who will read this, I’m sure.

    • brain injury self rehabilitation (BISR)

      August 22, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      I never gave any of this thought, until I dealt with this on a personal level. Something so many of us take for granted, isn’t as easy as it seems in daily life with brain injury. Every task seems complicated, especially as one learns to tackle one task at a time. Overtime, it gets better…but it’s a slow journey.


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