As time passes, the person living with dementia will need more support and help with everyday things, such as getting dressed. It is important to allow them to make their own choices, where possible, and there are several ways to do this in a sensitive and encouraging way.

1. The use of signs on furniture

Using signs or labels on furniture such as drawers and wardrobes can help the person with dementia to find what they want to wear more easily. Using pictures as well as words will help to make them easier to understand.

2. Lay outfits out

Begin putting items of clothes out in the order that the person would put them on. Make sure they are laid out on a plain background so they are easier to see. Start with the underwear, tights/socks and then the top, trousers/skirt and belt. Finish with outer garments, such as a jumper or cardigan. Ensure any items with buttons or zips are undone in advance and clothing is not inside-out. If the person requires any prompting, do it in a clear and gentle way, with helpful suggestions such as, “put your arm into that sleeve.” Remaining calm and reassuring if the person makes mistakes will also prevent them from becoming frustrated and upset.

3. Take things slowly

Ensure the person has plenty of time to get dressed and is not rushing to go somewhere. Keeping the process relaxing and slow will help prevent them from becoming distressed and agitated.

4. Keep the options low

Allowing a person with dementia the option to choose an outfit helps to promote confidence and independence, but having too much choice can sometimes become overwhelming. If the person is struggling to make a choice and is becoming confused, reduce the number of items to something more manageable. Favourite choices kept somewhere easily accessible will prove helpful in the long run.

5. Consider layers

Although you do not want the person with dementia to be overwhelmed with choices, it is a good idea to think about wearing several layers of thin clothing rather than one layer of thick clothing that they would not be able to take off if they were feeling hot. Choosing clothes that can be layered for warmth or removed easily to cool down will help keep the person with dementia comfortable without having to constantly re-visit what they are wearing throughout the day.

6. Change dirty clothing regularly

People with dementia may sometimes be reluctant to change their clothes, particularly if they are comfortable in something they really like to wear. Consider buying duplicate outfits of any favourite choices so that dirty clothes can be washed regularly without causing distress to the person. Not all people like to wear fresh clean clothes every day, but hygiene should also be a priority for overall good health and wellbeing.

7. Recognising their individuality

Recognising their own personal style and allowing them to make their own decisions with clothing choices is important, but the clothing must be suitable for the environment and weather conditions. Keeping photos around of how they usually like to look can make the process of getting ready easier, particularly when the dementia progresses further.

8. Make sure the environment is comfortable for getting dressed

Making sure there is a comfortable environment for the person with dementia to get dressed in will have an impact on how that person feels. Consider their personal preferences for privacy, such as closing curtains or doors whilst dressing and making sure the room is a pleasant temperature. This can make all the difference to their feelings of wellbeing, dignity and comfort.

9. When buying new clothes, keep these things in mind

Shopping for new clothes can be a good time to look for items that are more practical, such as items that are easy to pull on and off. Elasticated waistbands, simple or no fastenings or clothes with Velcro are all options worth considering. Bear in mind that if you buy too many new and different items, the person with dementia may not recognise them as their own and refuse to wear them. Having multiple items of favourite clothing in different colours can add variety without causing confusion and make the person with dementia feel confident and comfortable in their choice of clothes.