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My mother can no longer dress herself

Answered by Karen Garner

March 17, 2015

My 83 yr old mom survived a major brain bleed 5 years ago, she recovered 100% physically but over the last two years she has mentally degrade. She now resides in a memory credit unit in a supported living facility as I could no longer care for her myself. What I do not understand is the fact that she used to be great at picking out what clothes to wear an now she wears day clothes over pajamas and sometimes 3 pairs of slacks and a couple blouses all inside out and backwards. Also, she wears depends and can no longer put them on correctly. She puts her whole body thru a leg hole and rips off numerous pairs a day because they do not fit right. I have learned that I cannot research her how to dress and the staff and myself have to deal with it. I guess I need to know if this is part of dementia and if not do I discuss with her Dr. I appreciate any help as I need to understand this more than I do. I am trying to learn and pray for the patience to deal with this as I am trying not to upset her. Thank you for any assistance.

I can definitely relate! Jim puts his clothes on backwards, inside out, and sometimes he will put on layers that don’t make sense. It is part of the disease taking over their brain function. Your mom can no longer decipher what is correct or not for dressing and probably doesn’t even care. I am sure it is hard to watch her like this since she was probably a sharp dresser before and took a lot of pride in her appearance. I would still discuss her new stage with her doctor when you visit next. It is always good to keep them up to date on the progression of the disease.

In the meantime, if at all possible, try to make a game out of the process of getting dressed or find a way to see the humor. I know that can seem impossible, but it can make a huge difference in your outlook, your day, and ultimately your relationship with her and her caregivers in the memory unit. Stay strong and be kind to yourself. She is so lucky to have you there helping her.

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. April 11, 2015 at 11:42 pm
    Posted by Mary Lou

    I guess I'm lucky, in that we do not have very many visitors. So dressing Mom, who has moderate Alzheimer's, crippling arthritis and is wheelchair bound makes it easy to dress her in a pull-on shirt. She is incontinent so she wears adult diapers (Underwear is what we call them). And we use the baby receiving blankets to cover her up. Wearing pants would make it difficult to change her underwear, so when she goes out she wears skirts. Her feet get cold so she wears her pink fluffy slippers. We dread the day that she will no longer be able to get up to be changed.
  2. April 11, 2015 at 01:17 pm
    Posted by Peggy

    I'm an aide to a 94 year old woman. She use to be able to dress herself and accomplish personal things. Now she needs help in every direction. She has bad days but how can you not love someone who has acted badly and then looks at you and says "I don't know what makes me do these things" with a look of bewilderment in her eyes. Love them for who they are now and remember who they use to be.
  3. April 11, 2015 at 10:20 am
    Posted by Toni

    My mother has also reached this stage of dementia. My father or one of us, her daughters, dress her every day, assist her in bathroom, give her pills, and most of her daily routine that she used to be able to do herself. This responsibility mostly falls on my father. Such a horrible disease!
  4. April 10, 2015 at 11:09 pm
    Posted by Yvonne Burkee

    Every morning, while my mother-in-law is having her coffee, I go into her bedroom and make her bed and then lay out her clothes for the day; underclothes, pants, shirt, shoes & socks. We then go into the bathroom together to wash up and brush teeth and then proceed to her bedroom. She is always amazed that someone has gotten her clothes ready for her. I then sit in a chair and coach her on what to do. I'm there if she needs help (and there are days she does) but we just go through everything step-by-step. She always feels accomplished that "she did it!"

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