Alzheimer’s Insights Making dressing and dementia less stressful

Published 6:20 pm Saturday, September 28, 2019

Believe it or not, there is every reason to hope that we’ll be entering into more traditional fall weather in Texas soon.   Monday, September 23 is actually the “official” date, but of course, it’s Texas, so who knows?

Cooler weather also brings about a change of wardrobe.  As we all know, your physical appearance contributes to your sense of self-esteem.  But – for a person with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, changing a wardrobe can be frustrating. They may be overwhelmed with choices or the task itself, or even not remember how to dress.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help, but first, you need to step back and pay attention to what’s happening.

Physical Problems

  • Does the person have problems with motor skills needed to fasten buttons or close zippers?
  • Does the person remember how to dress – how to put clothes on and in what


  • Does he or she recognize their clothes?
  • Is he or she aware of the time of day or season of the year?

 Environment Issues

  • Is the person troubled by lack of privacy, a cold room, poor lighting or loud noises?

Other Concerns

  • Is the person being rushed to get dressed quickly?
  • Is the person receiving clear step-by-step instructions on how to dress or does the task seem too complicated?
  • Is the person embarrassed by dressing in front of you or others?


Once you’ve made these observations, the next thing to do is:

Simplify Choices

  • Layout clothes for the person.
  • When possible, give the person an opportunity to select favorite outfits or colors. Try offering only two choices of a clothing item (for example, two pants or two skirts).
  • Keep the closets free of excess clothing. A person may find many clothing choices overwhelming.

 Choose Comfortable and Simple Clothing

  • Select comfortable and loose-fitting clothing that’s easy to put on and remove.
  • Cardigans, shirts, and blouses that button in front are sometimes easier to work than pullover tops
  • Substitute Velcro for buttons, snaps, and zippers, which may be too difficult to handle.
  • To avoid tripping and falling, make sure that clothing length is appropriate.
  • Make sure the person wears comfortable, non-slip shoes.
  • If the person is confined to a wheelchair, adapt regular clothes to protect his or her privacy and allow for greater comfort.
  • Make sure that clothing is loose-fitting, especially at the waist and hips — and choose fabrics that are soft and stretchable.

Organize the Dressing Process

  • Layout clothes in the order each item goes on.
  • Hand the person one item of clothing at a time while giving short, simple instructions such as “Put on your shirt,” rather than “Get dressed.”
  • Don’t rush the person. Haste can cause anxiety.

 Finally – Be Flexible

  • If the person wants to wear the same outfit repeatedly, try getting a duplicate of it or have similar options available.
  • It’s ok if the person wants to wear several layers of clothing, just make sure he or she doesn’t get overheated.
  • It’s ok if clothing is mismatched.

If you have questions, call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 for more information.


The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. For more information, visit or call the 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.

Scott Finley is Media Relations Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association® in Texas.  He can be reached at