Nurses’ Notes – Practical, Helpful Tips for Caregivers

Tips for Dressing (Part 1) and Grooming (Part 2) Persons with Dementia – Part One: Dressing: Tips to help achieve successful outcomes


As an individual’s dementia progresses, dressing and personal grooming tasks such as hairstyling and make-up, shaving for men, finger/ toenail care, and foot and eye care become much more challenging. Routines that have been established previously by the person with the least changes are the most successful. Familiarity with routines promotes retention of existing independence as well as increased opportunity for easy completion of tasks.

Part One: Dressing: Tips to help achieve successful outcomes

  1. Keep It simple:
    1. Use pictures on dresser drawers and closets to help person locate clothes
    2. Buy clothes that are simple to put on and take off, flame retardant, softnon-wrinkle, stretchable and easy to wash and repair.
      • e.g. pants with elastic waistbands. No zippers
      • shoes easy to slide on/ or with Velcro closures. No laces, high heels, open backs or toes
      • loose fitting dresses/tops that do up in the front with Velcro or large zippers
      • Avoid tight socks, girdles, bras.
  1. Empty closet of clothes that are no longer appropriate for the season or too difficult to put on and off. Keep the closet locked if need to avoid rummaging. Provide just enough clean clothes so choices are easy.
  1. Persons with Dementia often wear the same outfits for many days as they often fail to notice that clothing has a foul odour or is soiled. Buying duplicate outfits can help the caregiver change clothing with the least problem and allow them to wear their favourite outfits
  1. When taking clothing off at night, if the person is resistant to putting the soiled clothes in the laundry, wait until they are asleep to take the items away. Avoid confrontation.
  1. For independent dressing, put clothes on the bed each day in the order in which they should be put on. Be consistent: At the bottom is vest or cardigan that is put on last, in the middle are shirt, pants/dress and on top are socks and underwear that are put on first.
  1. Have a routine time each day for dressing. Give person choice before arranging clothes on the bed. Allow person to do as much as possible to assist in independence. Intervene only to avoid frustration by handing the person one thing at a time or by giving step-by-step dressing instructions with lots of praise.
  1. Persons with Dementia often have difficulty knowing how to dress appropriately for hot or cold, rainy weather and need monitoring by the caregiver when to wear sweaters, coats, shorts etc.

Baycrest: Dementia: A Caregiver’s Guide
Family Caregiver Alliance 2012
National Institute on Aging


Photo of Rosalee Berlin

Rosalee Berlin

Rosalee is a Geriatric Nurse Consultant, who was a teacher since 1982, working at Baycrest for 13 years. See Rosalee’s full bio on our team page.