As we age, we may experience changes in our physical health. Our eyesight and hearing can decline, our mobility can decrease, and/or we may need more assistance with day-to-day tasks. In general, aging can cause a natural decline in functional status and can decrease the ability to perform these tasks. Activities of daily living (ADLs) are necessary and routine tasks that most individuals can perform without assistance (Edemekong, 2022). These include skills such as eating, ambulating, continence, dressing, personal hygiene, and mobility.
ADLs encompass skills necessary to independently care for yourself. In addition, ADLs are used to indicate a person’s functional status, and inability to perform ADLs can result in the dependence on others and/or assistive devices. The inability to accomplish ADLs may lead to unsafe conditions and a poor quality of life (Edemekong, 2022). Quality of life encompasses physical wellness, purpose, connectedness, security, and autonomy.
For the purposes of this fact sheet, the focus will be on dressing. Dressing provides independence and autonomy. You can choose what clothes you want to wear, as well as when and how you want to wear them. The way you dress is an extension of your creativity and how you present yourself. Additionally, whether shopping with friends, or complimenting others on how they dress, clothing and fashion can also be topics of conversation that connect others. Recognizing these components and how they relate to ADLs, such as dressing, are important to maintaining a good quality of life.
For some, physical limitations may also limit clothing choices. Buttoning shirts or pants, tying shoes, or lifting arms to put on clothing may not be options for some people as they age. One solution to address these challenges with dressing is adaptive clothing.
Adaptive clothing is specifically designed for individuals with physical disabilities, mobility issues, cognitive challenges, and sensory sensitivities (Koop, 2022). Adaptive clothing offers apparel with options such as Velcro, magnetic buttons, side zippers, or seamless items to reduce pressure on the body (Press, 2018). Other options include snap-on buttons, slip-on shoes, or belts that can be put on with one hand. Adaptive clothing provides these adjustments while still looking like normal clothing.
Benefits of Adaptive Clothing (Silverts, 2019)
Adaptive clothing can be beneficial to both the individual as well as caregivers. There are two categories for adaptive clothing: (1) assisted dressing, which is clothing that a caregiver can help the wearer put on; and (2) self-dressing, which is clothing that a more independent wearer can put on themselves (Koop, 2022).
- Reduces pain and pressure
- For example, thick fabric seams, such as denim, can put pressure on the body when sitting or lying down for extended periods of time. This may apply to individuals with limited mobility or joint pain. Adaptive clothing has minimal seams for greater comfort.
- Keeps loved ones and caregivers safe
- Lifting a person can risk injury for both parties involved. Adaptive clothing can reduce the need to lift a person, making clothing easier to get on and off.
- Adaptive clothing can give caregivers confidence in their ability to address the dressing activity of daily living and caring for their loved one.
- Helps maintain independence
- Adaptive clothing provides easier closure options like magnetic buttons or Velcro that let individuals keep dressing themselves for as long as possible, maintaining some independence.
- Protects dignity
- Relying on others for help with dressing can negatively affect self-esteem. Adaptive clothing can help individuals be a part of the dressing process, maintain autonomy in dressing, and protect their dignity.
- Provides stress-free dressing
- Taking clothes on and off can be stressful if it takes more time and effort. Adaptive clothing alleviates some of that stress and frustration.
- Adaptive clothing is more efficient to use and can be more convenient by saving time in the morning and evening when changing clothes.
Some retailers of adaptive clothing may let you find clothes based on a specific condition such as Alzheimer’s disease or wheelchair use. Using key terms such as “adaptive clothing” while looking online can help find potential retailers. In addition, more stores have started making adaptive clothing lines that are functional, practical, and modern.
Overall, adaptive clothing helps individuals maintain independence by creating a sense of self-reliance. Adaptive clothing can also benefit caregivers by making dressing easier and less time consuming. For caregivers, it is important to consider that the need for adaptive clothing may also indicate that an individual may need more assistance with ADLs and have rising care needs.
AARP also has a list of adaptive clothing lines in their article here.
Edemekong, P.F., Bomgaars, D.L., Sukumaran, S., et al. Activities of Daily Living. [Updated May 2, 2022]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470404/
Koop, C. (2022). The Best Adaptive Clothing for Seniors. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/family-caregiver-guide-to-adaptive-clothing
Press, J. (2018). Adaptive Clothing Takes Stress out of Dressing. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/home-care/info-2018/adaptive-clothing-guide.html
Silverts. (2019). 8 Ways Adaptive Clothing Benefits Both Patients and Caregivers. Retrieved from https://www.silverts.com/givingcare/8-ways-adaptive-clothing-benefits-both-patients-and-caregivers/#:~:text=Adaptive%20clothing%20is%20designed%20to,provide%20coverage%20for%20wheelchair%20transfers.