For Caregivers: Dressing

Advancing Parkinson’s disease (PD) can make daily tasks more difficult to perform. Getting dressed becomes a slower, more challenging activity and care partners often need to help. Getting dressed can bring with it a sense of dependence, so try to involve your loved one when possible ― from asking him or her to choose between two shirts to asking for their help, when possible. 

Changes to clothing and the dressing routine can improve safety and reduce frustration. Tips for helping your loved one dress:  

  • Allow the person with Parkinson’s to provide as much assistance as possible. 
  • Ensure adequate time for dressing. Stress can make PD symptoms worse, so your loved one may not be able to help as much if you are rushing. 
  • Consider waiting for a time to dress when your loved one’s PD medications are working well, and he or she has the best mobility possible. 
  • Assemble all necessary clothing items before beginning to dress to eliminate multiple trips to the closet or dresser. 
  • Offer choice (red sweater or blue sweater?) and encourage participation in physical movement. 
  • Incorporate a few extra arm or leg motions for the person with Parkinson’s during dressing to keep muscles flexible. This also builds range of motion and flexibility exercise into the daily routine.

Each person with Parkinson’s is unique, so the tips and techniques in the above video are not universal. When it comes to dressing, make modifications that work best for you and your loved one. For answers to your PD caregiving questions please call the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).

Staying Safe While Dressing 

  • Have the person with Parkinson’s sit down while dressing to reduce the risk of balance loss or falls. 
  • To reduce back strain, make sure you have the best positioning possible when helping the person with Parkinson’s get dressed. For example, you can put on his or her pants, socks and shoes while the person is still lying down. 
  • Find adaptive wear options and tools that can help you dress your loved one.  

What to Wear? 

  • Choose clothing styles and fabrics that make dressing easier. 
  • Select clothes that are easy to put on such as soft, stretchy fabrics, elastic waistbands, front openings, and tube socks.
  • Avoid velour and similar fabrics, which can create more friction with other surfaces and make it difficult to dress or move during the day. 
  • If one arm or leg has more stiffness, put this extremity into the sleeve or pant leg first. 
  • Velcro can be sewn into existing clothes (replace buttons with Velcro closures). Or you can buy clothing designed for easier dressing from adaptive clothing catalogs. 
  • Switch to shoes with Velcro closures, elastic shoelaces or those that slip on and off. 

Cold Weather Climates

  • Choose outerwear that is oversized and easy fitting.
  • A soft fabric coat or sweatshirt may be easier to put on. Alternatively, consider an overhead poncho-style coat that does not require fitting arms into sleeves. 
  • Mittens are easier to put on than individual finger gloves.

Adaptive Clothing

There are many companies that sell adaptive clothing that make it easier for your loved one to get dressed, and for you to assist. See our Getting Dressed page for examples.

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