When you’re dealing with a person who forgets stuff, the challenges spawn adaptations. The problem with caring people with dementia is that, unlike a toddler, they don’t maintain the learning. What you show them one day is usually gone the next. So here are some fixes that myself and other caregivers have come up with regarding clothes.
> I complained to the caregivers in my support group that I couldn’t get my husband, P., to change out of his long underwear and into his pajamas so that the long underwear could go into the hamper. One of them suggested I buy more sets of long underwear, which I did. I’ve even labeled them so I can match up the gray tops and bottoms easily. Next time I’m buying different colored sets.
> P. likes to sleep in his long underwear. Left to his own devices in the morning, my husband will shower and then put on the same long underwear and the clothes that he wore the day before (see above). We’re working on getting him to go directly to the bathroom and put his long john “pajamas” and underwear and socks directly into the hamper. So far, it works–sometimes. He often asks, “But what will I wear today?”
> Routines are really important for folks with memory loss. P.’s now getting pretty good at remembering to change from muddy, outdoor boots into clean house sneakers.
> P. has little discrimination regarding outdoor temperatures. He tends to be cold a lot of the time. But he needs help choosing a jacket. I try to limit the choices on the coat rack to two at most.
> He sometimes mixes up his layers, putting the down vest under his flannel shirt. I just make light of it and help him switch them around.
> A couple of years ago, I bought him a fancy velour jogging suit. The pants were easy pull-on, and the jacket was warm. It was a pretty spiffy outfit. I thought it would make dressing easier. He hates it. The only times he’s worn the jogging suit is when he’s had an endoscopy.
> P. helps me fold and put away the laundry. But he doesn’t always remember where things go. I haven’t yet resorted to labeling his dresser drawers, but that means that I have to reorganize when he puts his clothes away.
> Another caregiver said that she packs away all the off-season clothing. I took her idea and put all the summer clothes away, leaving a limited amount of items in the closet.
When I reread this, I feel a little apologetic for focusing on such apparent minutia, but then–these are the thoughts and activities that make up a large portion of my days.
Caregiving is not easy. One day may not be too difficult, but the cumulative effect is harder to cope with. P. always wants to help with chores, but sometimes it’s easier to do them myself than direct him through the task. Yes, I probably should be more patient. Yes, I should slow down and allow him the dignity of assisting with our daily chores. Each day I make choices anew, and that’s how I go forward, day by day.