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Personal care

Dressing and undressing

If you find dressing difficult, there are a number of things you can try to remain independent with dressing. Choosing appropriate styles and fabrics adapted clothing as well as using special techniques or equipment can all help to make dressing easier:

  • skirts and trousers with elasticated waistbands are often easier to manage than those with fasteners
  • loose fitting, stretchy clothing without fastenings, such as T-shirts will often be easier to manage and eliminates the need to fasten buttons or zips
  • if choosing clothing with fasteners, make sure the fastener is easily accessible, such as being at the front
    • Magnetic or Velcro fasteners are usually easy to manage; shirts, trousers, bras and skirts are available ready made with these types of fastenings
    • you could adapt your own clothing, for example, Velcro dots can be used instead of buttons to fasten a shirt
  • clothes made from knitted or 'jersey' fabrics are often easier to manage than more stiff, woven fabrics
  • smooth, slippery fabrics such as silk are usually easier to get on and off, as they glide easily over your skin or other layers of clothing
  • bras can be difficult to fasten at the back, and hook and eye fastenings can be difficult to manage
    • front fastening bras are available and are usually easier to manage
    • you could also consider a fasten-free bra, which is pulled on over your head or up from the floor 
  • zip fastenings can be quicker and easier than buttons, although open ended zips can be difficult to align and fasten if you have pain or stiffness in your fingers
    • extended tabs or loops can be added to zip tags to make them easier to grip and fasten

Equipment is available to assist with a variety of dressing tasks. We recommend that you seek advice from an occupational therapist before buying or using any of this equipment.

Washing, showering and bathing

Everyone is different in strength, balance and agility and has a unique home environment including their bathroom layout. It may be a good idea for you to arrange an assessment with an Occupational Therapist to discuss any issues you may have with getting in and out of a bath, standing in or using a shower and standing at the basin.

However, there are a few things that you can do yourself:

  • put nonslip strips, mats or tiles in your tub and shower to help prevent falls, to combat tripping, secure any loose corners on mats
  • be sure to keep the tub clean to counteract slippery soap scum or mould
  • keep the bathroom floor dry, making sure it has no water on it
  • a weighted shower curtain will help ensure that no water leaks onto the floor
  • your bathroom should be adequately lit during the day and night
  • equip your shower with a handheld or adjustable shower head; you can manoeuvre it where you want it, minimizing your movement in the shower
  • put items you use regularly in easy reaching distance so you don't have to stand on steps, bath edges or move around a lot to reach them
  • take your time; the more you rush, the more likely you are to fall 

Using the toilet

Toileting is a function that most people take for granted and if assistance is required it can cause distress.

By using equipment, independence can be regained, while in other situations more complex solutions are required. You should speak to an Occupational Therapist to help you decide what would be best for you.

Tips:

  • make sure the way to the toilet and the room is well lit at night
  • consider if a special frame, rails or a higher seat would be best to help you get and off the toilet
  • never use a walking frame to hold onto whilst standing from a toilet, as it is not designed for this purpose and could easily tip over
  • talk to your GP about any continence issues

See also

Arranging care at home