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If You Do This Every Morning, Get Checked for Dementia

Experts explain signs of dementia to look out for. 

A common challenge for some people living with dementia is getting dressed independently. While it may seem like a simple task, there are many steps involved and the damage dementia inflicts on the brain can cause confusion and changes in behavior. Kelly O'Connor, a Certified Dementia Practitioner tells Eat This, Not That! Health, "In the earlier stages of cognitive changes, people begin to rely on their habits, routines and rituals to support their daily functioning. This reliance on patterning may show up as forgetting to change clothing and wearing the same clothes day after day." ETNT Health talked with experts who explained signs of dementia to watch out for that affects daily routines like dressing. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Dressing for the Wrong Season

Senior man buttoning his shirt.

O'Connor says, "People who are losing the executive functioning of the brain which controls decision-making may also dress in the wrong season. A sunny day might mean warm-weather clothing to someone with dementia or a cloudy day might be reminiscent of "coat weather."

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Wears Street Clothes to Bed


"Oftentimes people with advanced dementia will resist changing clothes in the evening to their pajamas," says O'Connor. "Some family caregivers get upset and try to demand their loved one change, causing upset in the evening hours. There is no "harm" in wearing street clothing to bed, so caregivers must pick their battles. I knew one gentleman who would get ready for bed by putting ON his shoes and ball cap. It wasn't until his wife realized that "get ready" meant "get ready to go somewhere", that she was able to use different words to prepare him for bed time."   

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Forgetting the Steps in Dressing

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

Sarah Stromsdorfer, an occupational therapist specializing in older adults, and the founder of the occupational therapy educational My OT Spot explains, "Dementia can impair motor planning, meaning the individual may have trouble processing and forget the steps needed to put on an article of clothing. Such as, forgetting the steps to put an arm through a jacket, or putting their clothes on backwards." 

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Forgetting Items of Clothing

Stromsdorfer states, "Dementia can also impair problem solving, so a person may put on their pants but forget to put on underwear or incontinence briefs and easily soil themselves if they aren't assisted or reminded about this step." 

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How to Help Someone with Dementia Get Dressed

Lacing sneakers. Curly young nurse in blue uniform lacing sneakers of woman with leg injury

O'Connor suggests, "Supporting someone with dementia requires calm, slow, loving and structured support, no matter the task at hand. For example, rushing someone through a task such as dressing might cause agitation or confusion that lasts throughout the day due to a person'a inability to effectively self-regulate. Structured support or patterning is also important to help someone learn and retain task ordering which sets them up for a good day. Example, every day getting dressed should follow the same pattern – underwear, socks, pants, shirt. This regularity of patterning provides a therapeutic comfort to reduce confusion and questioning during regular daily tasks."

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Occupational Therapist

older man with dementia speaking to caregiver
Shutterstock / LightField Studios

According to Stromsdorfer, "There are many ways to help a person with dementia with their dressing. If they are able to see an occupational therapist, the occupational therapist will assess the client's abilities to complete their dressing and other self-care tasks and come up with ways to help the client increase their independence and safety, as well as train the caregivers to increase the carryover of these treatments. Some treatments will include having the person complete their dressing tasks step by step with repetition, adding in visual memory aids like pictures of dressing steps, and educating the caregivers to allow the person to assist as much as possible. The "use it or lose it" principle applies here, as people with dementia stop completing their own tasks (even if they are able) they do lose the ability even quicker." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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
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