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Dementia can make it more difficult to get dressed or undressed. This is because dementia can affect your:

  • knowledge of when and how to get dressed
  • balance
  • eye-hand coordination
  • mood, making you less motivated to get dressed.

Some medications have side-effects that can also make dressing harder.

If you’re finding it difficult to get dressed, talk to your doctor. They can do things like:

  • an eye test. If you’re having trouble seeing, it can be harder to recognise your clothes and do up buttons
  • check whether your medication is affecting your ability to get dressed
  • check if you’ve got another condition that’s making dressing harder.

What you can do

Clothes and shoes

The right clothes can make it easier to get dressed and undressed. Look for:

  • clothes with velcro or elastic instead of buttons and zips.
  • slip-on shoes with good grip on the sole
  • clothes with simple patterns and colours. They’re less distracting and easier to see
  • clothes that are easy to wash
  • clothes that don’t need ironing

If you find clothes you like that are easy to put on, buy two or more sets.

Getting dressed

To make getting dressed and undressed easier:

  • keep the place where you get dressed quiet
  • remove any clutter or mess
  • keep the room at a comfortable temperature
  • make sure there’s enough light
  • put big, clear signs on your drawers and cupboards telling you what’s inside
  • put your clothes out in the order you want to put them on — underwear first
  • put your clothes on something that’s a different colour, so you can easily see them
  • get dressed in small steps, one at a time. If a step is hard, take a break or ask for help.

What families, friends and carers can do

If someone close to you is living with dementia, encourage them to continue dressing themselves for as long as possible. This can help them maintain their independence and self-esteem.

If they forget to change their clothes, or are finding it difficult to get dressed by themselves, you can support them by:

  • being aware that being reminded to change your clothes can be embarrassing or humiliating. They may just prefer to change their clothes less often than you would like
  • making sure they’re comfortable with you being there while they change. Ask them what they need and give them privacy if it’s safe
  • using gestures, simple words, reassurance and encouragement to guide them
  • simplifying clothing choices — offer two choices of outfit, and remove out-of-season clothes from the wardrobe
  • helping them maintain their individuality and sense of dress
  • avoiding imposing your own preferences on them — whatever their choices, as long as they’re safe and comfortable, it’s fine.

Dementia can sometimes affect a person’s inhibitions, leading them to undress frequently or in inappropriate situations. Our Disinhibition page has more information and advice.

It’s okay to take care of your own health and happiness. If you're struggling as someone who cares for a person with dementia, contact the free, confidential National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500, any time of the day or night, for information, advice and support.

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Last updated
3 January 2024