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If You Do This When Dressing, Get Checked For Dementia

Four major signs of dementia that people should be aware of, according to experts.

More than 5.8 million Americans live with dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and while diagnosing dementia, which is described as the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning —to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities by the National Institute on Aging, can be a challenge at times, particularly in the early stages, there are signs to watch out for that indicate someone has the condition like have difficulty dressing. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with Dr. Elise Eifert, Assistant Professor, Gerontology Program, UNC Greensboro who explained the signs of dementia to watch out for and tips for how to help someone with dementia with dressing. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs COVID is Hurting You—Even After a Negative Test.


Wearing the Same Outfit Every Day

Senior man buttoning his shirt.

Dr. Eifert says, "There are many reasons why this could happen. The most likely cause is memory loss associated with dementia. The person may not realize that they have been in the same outfit for several days. There are also a number of mental and physical changes that could impede someone's ability to dress and undress. Sometimes, the issue is that the person with dementia finds comfort and security in the familiarity of a singular outfit."

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​​Putting Clothing on in the Wrong Order

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

"Dressing and undressing requires numerous, sequenced steps," says Dr. Eifert. "With dementia, the person may not remember the steps or become confused about next steps which can cause mistakes to happen like wearing underwear on the outside of the pants."

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Not Dressing for the Right Season

Mature woman cold on the beach.

Dr. Eifert explains that, "Wearing clothing that is not appropriate for the weather or layering several articles of clothing on top of each other," could be a sign of dementia. 

"People with dementia do not self-regulate their body temperature well, so even if it is oppressively hot to you, they may be comfortable. People with dementia also have limited judgment so they may not realize that seasons have changed and that there are socially acceptable or practical ways to dress for the environment.

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Unable to Choose Clothing

Middle Aged Woman makes shopping and looks at the new dress near shelf with clothes.

According to Dr. Eifert, "People with dementia can become overwhelmed by the many choices that a wardrobe provides which can cause frustration and anxiety. Additionally, the person may not remember how to dress or get overwhelmed by the task itself which prevents them from selecting clothes to put on."

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How to Help Someone with Dementia Get Dressed

Set of women's outfits autumn, winter clothes.

The National Institute on Aging has the following suggestions for dressing:

"People with Alzheimer's disease often need more time to dress.. It can be hard for them to choose their clothes. They might wear the wrong clothing for the season. They also might wear colors that don't go together or forget to put on a piece of clothing. Allow the person to dress on his or her own for as long as possible.

Other tips for dressing:

  • Lay out clothes in the order the person should put them on, such as underwear first, then pants, then a shirt, and then a sweater.
  • Hand the person one thing at a time, or give step-by-step dressing instructions.
  • Put away some clothes in another room to reduce the number of choices. Keep only one or two outfits in the closet or dresser.
  • Keep the closet locked if needed.
  • Buy three or four sets of the same clothes if the person wants to wear the same clothing every day.
  • Buy loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, such as sports bras, cotton socks and underwear, and sweat pants and shorts with elastic waistbands.
  • Avoid girdles, control-top pantyhose, knee-high nylons, high heels, and tight socks.
  • Use Velcro® tape or large zipper pulls for clothing instead of shoelaces, buttons, or buckles.
  • Try slip-on shoes that won't slide off or shoes with Velcro® straps." And to live your healthiest life, don't miss this life-saving advice I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.
Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather