Helping people with dementia maintain identity and independence with clothes

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 [image]

Hello @HannahR23 and welcome to the Forum.

Whilst I can’t offer much practical help with your problem I can empathise. My Dad moved in with us for a few months as he was diagnosed with dementia and his personal care became a bit of an issue.
Previously he’d lived independently in a Retirement Village and did some of his own washing and sent the rets to the laundry. The first thing I noticed was he had ‘old man smell’ - yes wee! Also he would not put his ‘smalls’ in the washing basket and eventually told me to stop pestering as he put them in the washer himself while I was at work… I found he was setting the machine thinking it was at 40 degrees and it was showing a forty minute wash cycle - a COLD wash.
In addition he kept putting shirts and trousers back in the wardrobe when they needed washing so we took to waving him off to go to church with a relative and rushing to clear the wardrobe and wash/dry and iron everything while he was out.
Later he was in a Care Home and there another relative managed to keep moving thigs ot the wash basket when he was otherwise occupied.
It seems that dress sense goes out of the window very easily with forgetfulness unless someone does make an extra effort to remind. He would buy cheap clothing from mail order catalogues as he thought it ‘looked OK’ and was cheap (although he had no financial worries).
Does Dad have photos of your Mum in her ‘glam rags’ that he could use to jog her memory of how lovely she looks? Perhaps you could take some photos of items which match and look good and then print them out for him so he can show them to her as suggestions.
Independence is vital for as long as you can help her maintain it. Also it helps your Dad not to feel he is making decisions for her. I don’t think there is anything worse than realising someone else is running your life and you have lost that control.
When my Mum was losing the ability to dress herself and Dad had a Carer come to help her wash and dress in the morning, he got her to say ‘OK Freda, what would you like to wear today?’ If there was hesitation, she would pick out a blouse and say ‘how about this? Now what skirt will go with it do you think?’ Trying to keep her motivated to chip in with an opinion. Naturally there were days when the answer would be ‘oh anything I can’t be bothered’. Then it might be a case of putting out something TOTALLY unmatched just to get a reaction.
I don’t know if this makes sense or helps, but others will hopefully have constructive comments to make.
Check around the various threads and you’ll find lots of support and advice as well as others sharing their experiences on Caring.
Remember you are NOT ALONE and everyone here knows what you are going through. Feel free to ask anything and I am sure there will be people who have similar experiences.
Also checkout “Roll Call” thread where you’ll find us having a gossip, a moan, and most importantly a good laugh. You can share as much or as little as you feel comfortable with and remember, it is anonymous!
Stay well and I am sure you will get some good comments.