Maintaining identity and independence through clothing

HannahJ

New member
Sep 19, 2023
7
0
My mum has Alzheimer’s and pre diagnosis was really into her clothing - it became a big part of how she expressed herself. As the disease has progressed she has changed shape (to do with postural changes as well as weight gain) which has meant a big clear out and a few shopping trips. Although she can still manage her own personal care at the moment the morning routine is naturally becoming harder. This is increasing pressure on my dad, who is her primary carer, particularly when they go out, as he struggles to put together outfits on mum’s behalf. He also still wants mum to look like she always used to; to look like his wife. I’m trying to develop something help them (and hopefully others) with visuals so mum can use pictures to choose outfits that ‘go together’, helping her to keep her independence and identity and making it easy for dad to retrieve what she’d like. I’m sure many of us here have experience of finding loved ones in care homes wearing someone else’s cardigan / not looking like themselves and the distress that causes us on their behalf is not to be underestimated. Whether someone is just at the point of finding their wardrobe a bit difficult to navigate or is completely dependent on carers to dress, I think they should be supported to have choice. Really interested to hear what others feel is important - please do share your experiences, challenges, workarounds and what would help you and your loved ones with this; thanks in advance for your thoughts :)
 

Jessbow

Registered User
Mar 1, 2013
5,623
0
Midlands
I think if i was sorting her wardrobe I'd remove anythng that didnt really go with much else, and buy new that went with everything else- perhaps stick to blue & greens with an odd pop of red & perhaps mustard, if they are her sort of colours.

if mum still makes choices, presumably she chooses what she wants to wear, irrespective of whatwe think.

when she cant , presumbly your dad would choose for her.
if she cant 'see' that a particular blouse doesnt go with a particular pair of trousers, I doubt cards would help.
 

sdmhred

Registered User
Jan 26, 2022
1,933
0
Surrey
It’s funny you should write this tonight as yesterday there was a thread about people wearing others clothes in a care home. I didn’t respond but was saddened that it smacks of institutionalism but I can see how it happens and would be probably be perceived as minor.

We’re not massively into clothes but you’re right it is part of someone. I dress mum and tend to give her a choice of 2 weather dependant outfits which she can then point to. If buying online I get her to choose.

Maybe take some pictures of suitable outfits and laminate them - both to show ur Dad what goes well well and then he can use with ur mum???
 

Chizz

Registered User
Jan 10, 2023
3,148
0
Kent
My mum has Alzheimer’s and pre diagnosis was really into her clothing - it became a big part of how she expressed herself. As the disease has progressed she has changed shape (to do with postural changes as well as weight gain) which has meant a big clear out and a few shopping trips. Although she can still manage her own personal care at the moment the morning routine is naturally becoming harder. This is increasing pressure on my dad, who is her primary carer, particularly when they go out, as he struggles to put together outfits on mum’s behalf. He also still wants mum to look like she always used to; to look like his wife. I’m trying to develop something help them (and hopefully others) with visuals so mum can use pictures to choose outfits that ‘go together’, helping her to keep her independence and identity and making it easy for dad to retrieve what she’d like. I’m sure many of us here have experience of finding loved ones in care homes wearing someone else’s cardigan / not looking like themselves and the distress that causes us on their behalf is not to be underestimated. Whether someone is just at the point of finding their wardrobe a bit difficult to navigate or is completely dependent on carers to dress, I think they should be supported to have choice. Really interested to hear what others feel is important - please do share your experiences, challenges, workarounds and what would help you and your loved ones with this; thanks in advance for your thoughts :)
Hi @HannahJ

Like your mum, my wife used to be v particular about her appearance, the clothes, make up, jewellery etc. Even in the early stages, she wanted to wear earrings and lip stick as part of getting ready routine and to make her feel more like a "normal" person, to be able to face the day.
When my wife was in the early stages, and could still wash and dress herself (although early on she needed help with dealing with her feet because of arthritic hips and knees), it became noticeably difficult for her to make decisions and she would dither.

So I would get out from her wardrobe two or three tops (of similar colour but different shades) plus one or two skirts (my OH preferred skirts to trousers) (that would be OK with the tops) and gradually persuade/push her to a decision - saying things like is this top and skirt OK for today? etc. She thought she was making a choice she liked, but really I was doing this - as I said, she could not make a decision - and there's only so many hours in the day to get ready! Sorry, if that sounds harsh, but everything gradually took longer and longer to do. Then later in her decline, it took longer still when I had to help her to get dressed, then when she would start putting things on in the wrong order, I had to dress her.
Is your dad coping with all this OK?

Gradually, she started to care less about the clothes' choices. Then she stopped being able to co-ordinate her actions, and earrings, and the clasps on necklaces, etc became to difficult to do. Sad but the way this illness goes.

Things that are familiar, old favourites, etc still liked over new things, but then old things or whether things are new are soon forgotten.

Best wishes to you all.
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
24,701
0
South coast
My OH used to be very particular over his appearance and liked to look very smart with co-ordinated jacket, trousers and nicely pressed shirt. Then he started making very weird clothes choices that didnt match, or were not suitable for the weather and didnt really care what he looked like. If I remonstrated that his clothes didnt go together he would get annoyed and say it was fine.

Eventually practicalities took over - he could not manage the buttons on his shirt, nor the flies on his trousers, so I replaces them with smart-but-casual collared polo shirts and elasticated waist trousers in colours that he liked, but all went together. He needs help now to get them on in the right order and round the right way, but he can do most of it himself.

I have tried laminated instructions - not for clothes, but for other things - but OH is unable to take these instructions (both written and diagrams) and apply them to real life, so they just got ignored. By all means try pictures of outfits, but you may well find that they have a limited time frame for working, or may not work at all.

I think the biggest problem, though, is this
He also still wants mum to look like she always used to; to look like his wife.
It is natural to want to "hold onto" your loved one and the changes you see are painful and upsetting to see. There is this feeling that they are gradually slipping away and are no longer that person, so you want to do everything you can to stop it and not let go of the things that made them "them" even when these things become beyond them. I suspect that this is your dads motivation and upset. You cant prevent the changes, though. Acceptance is the key
xx
 

Jaded'n'faded

Registered User
Jan 23, 2019
5,227
0
High Peak
I agree with this:
It is natural to want to "hold onto" your loved one and the changes you see are painful and upsetting to see. There is this feeling that they are gradually slipping away and are no longer that person, so you want to do everything you can to stop it and not let go of the things that made them "them" even when these things become beyond them. I suspect that this is your dads motivation and upset.
It is so hard to accept a loved one is no longer the person they once were. As dementia progresses, the person will care less and less about what they are wearing and this can be distressing for family. I was always horrified when I visited mum in her care home to find her wearing someone else's slippers/glasses/cardi. No, it's not great but it happens and often people with dementia have a rather fluid idea about ownership - I saw my mum pick up another lady's cardi and bag and swear blind they were hers.

Then as you say, there's the whole business of getting someone dressed, never mind caring whether they are colour-co-ordinated. Maybe there are other ways for your mum to still express her style and retain some choices. Perhaps you could buy her several colourful scarves and each day your dad could ask which one she wanted to wear today?

As for our own distress at seeing these changes, I'm afraid you just have to 'suck it up' as with so many things dementia brings. But you can always come here and get sympathy from others because we do understand what you're going through!
 

HannahJ

New member
Sep 19, 2023
7
0
I think if i was sorting her wardrobe I'd remove anythng that didnt really go with much else, and buy new that went with everything else- perhaps stick to blue & greens with an odd pop of red & perhaps mustard, if they are her sort of colours.

if mum still makes choices, presumably she chooses what she wants to wear, irrespective of whatwe think.

when she cant , presumbly your dad would choose for her.
if she cant 'see' that a particular blouse doesnt go with a particular pair of trousers, I doubt cards would help.
Thanks Jess yes that’s definitely a good shout to remove items that aren’t getting much use / don’t go with much and yes I think visuals need to be already grouped into outfits to make it easier for both mum and dad - the whole wardrobe gets a bit unwieldy for either of them to navigate :)
 

HannahJ

New member
Sep 19, 2023
7
0
It’s funny you should write this tonight as yesterday there was a thread about people wearing others clothes in a care home. I didn’t respond but was saddened that it smacks of institutionalism but I can see how it happens and would be probably be perceived as minor.

We’re not massively into clothes but you’re right it is part of someone. I dress mum and tend to give her a choice of 2 weather dependant outfits which she can then point to. If buying online I get her to choose.

Maybe take some pictures of suitable outfits and laminate them - both to show ur Dad what goes well well and then he can use with ur mum???
Thanks so much; yes that’s along the lines of what I was thinking and good shout about things that suit the weather too. I will have to look out for that other thread about clothing in care homes as I hadn’t spotted that :)
 

try again

Registered User
Jun 21, 2018
1,308
0
My thoughts are she is not the same person she used to be and he will wear himself down trying to make her so
 

HannahJ

New member
Sep 19, 2023
7
0
Hi @HannahJ

Like your mum, my wife used to be v particular about her appearance, the clothes, make up, jewellery etc. Even in the early stages, she wanted to wear earrings and lip stick as part of getting ready routine and to make her feel more like a "normal" person, to be able to face the day.
When my wife was in the early stages, and could still wash and dress herself (although early on she needed help with dealing with her feet because of arthritic hips and knees), it became noticeably difficult for her to make decisions and she would dither.

So I would get out from her wardrobe two or three tops (of similar colour but different shades) plus one or two skirts (my OH preferred skirts to trousers) (that would be OK with the tops) and gradually persuade/push her to a decision - saying things like is this top and skirt OK for today? etc. She thought she was making a choice she liked, but really I was doing this - as I said, she could not make a decision - and there's only so many hours in the day to get ready! Sorry, if that sounds harsh, but everything gradually took longer and longer to do. Then later in her decline, it took longer still when I had to help her to get dressed, then when she would start putting things on in the wrong order, I had to dress her.
Is your dad coping with all this OK?

Gradually, she started to care less about the clothes' choices. Then she stopped being able to co-ordinate her actions, and earrings, and the clasps on necklaces, etc became to difficult to do. Sad but the way this illness goes.

Things that are familiar, old favourites, etc still liked over new things, but then old things or whether things are new are soon forgotten.

Best wishes to you all.
Thank you so much for your kind words and helpful suggestions - dad is coping ok but the morning routine is naturally taking longer and mum is needing more persuasion to have a shower. I think that’s a really good idea to offer a limited selection of clothing to offer choice for as long as that remains important but in such a way that doesn’t overwhelm. Very best wishes
 

HannahJ

New member
Sep 19, 2023
7
0
My OH used to be very particular over his appearance and liked to look very smart with co-ordinated jacket, trousers and nicely pressed shirt. Then he started making very weird clothes choices that didnt match, or were not suitable for the weather and didnt really care what he looked like. If I remonstrated that his clothes didnt go together he would get annoyed and say it was fine.

Eventually practicalities took over - he could not manage the buttons on his shirt, nor the flies on his trousers, so I replaces them with smart-but-casual collared polo shirts and elasticated waist trousers in colours that he liked, but all went together. He needs help now to get them on in the right order and round the right way, but he can do most of it himself.

I have tried laminated instructions - not for clothes, but for other things - but OH is unable to take these instructions (both written and diagrams) and apply them to real life, so they just got ignored. By all means try pictures of outfits, but you may well find that they have a limited time frame for working, or may not work at all.

I think the biggest problem, though, is this

It is natural to want to "hold onto" your loved one and the changes you see are painful and upsetting to see. There is this feeling that they are gradually slipping away and are no longer that person, so you want to do everything you can to stop it and not let go of the things that made them "them" even when these things become beyond them. I suspect that this is your dads motivation and upset. You cant prevent the changes, though. Acceptance is the key
xx
Thank you so much, totally agree - and yes I think sometimes written instructions can be difficult to process; I like the idea of adapting and supporting loved ones to have as much independence as they can / want, depending on what stage they are at and choosing clothing that is easiest to handle - we’re already avoiding dresses because tights will be too hard and I guess it’s a continual case of going with the flow. Thank you for your wise words x
 

HannahJ

New member
Sep 19, 2023
7
0
I agree with this:

It is so hard to accept a loved one is no longer the person they once were. As dementia progresses, the person will care less and less about what they are wearing and this can be distressing for family. I was always horrified when I visited mum in her care home to find her wearing someone else's slippers/glasses/cardi. No, it's not great but it happens and often people with dementia have a rather fluid idea about ownership - I saw my mum pick up another lady's cardi and bag and swear blind they were hers.

Then as you say, there's the whole business of getting someone dressed, never mind caring whether they are colour-co-ordinated. Maybe there are other ways for your mum to still express her style and retain some choices. Perhaps you could buy her several colourful scarves and each day your dad could ask which one she wanted to wear today?

As for our own distress at seeing these changes, I'm afraid you just have to 'suck it up' as with so many things dementia brings. But you can always come here and get sympathy from others because we do understand what you're going through!
Thank you so much and that’s a wonderful suggestion about the scarves as mum has loads of those so it would be easy to pick from a small selection to wear with something comfortable and practical. I managed to cull the duplicates as we did end up accumumating a lot as mum couldn’t remember just how vast her collection was, but she could still wear a different one every day of the month! What a great idea 💡