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Dressing Successes in the Later Stages

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When you look at the big picture in Alzheimer’s disease, and visualize the steady decline of every functional ability, sometimes you need to appreciate the smaller successes.

I need to remind caregivers about this all the time.  What they see as “dependent” for the entire dressing task actually can be broken down into moments where the person is helping, is less dependent.  The important thing is to approach the task slowly, allow extra time to process each step and plan the movement, and limit chatter. Demonstrating what you want is far more effective than speaking it.

Here are a few successes worth celebrating and preserving:

  • She can sit at the edge of the bed, unsupported.
  • She can hold the garment and at least gesture where it goes.
  • She can push her arm through the sleeve.
  • She can stand so you can pull her pants up.
  • She can shift her weight side to side, anticipating what movements are required to help get her clothes on.
  • She doesn’t resist dressing.
Because Alzheimer’s disease runs a predictable course, it is a safe bet that most of the above mentioned skills will disappear at the end of life.  Each component skill of the task that you can preserve should be considered a victory.  “Dependent’ is a relative term.
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