Nov 21, 2011

What Am I Gonna Wear?

No more arm holes to contend with. No more OMG am I going to break one of his arms. The dark blue rain proof cape is roomy with a warm lining and a hood.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

It could be a trendy tennis top, baggy corduroy pants, a flannel shirt, over sized gym pants and a mix of other casual clothing is what my husband usually wears now that he’s in a home.

There’s nothing fancy hanging in his cupboard.

It’s all his comfy clothes from “the before” - things he used to wear when he was an active, then a semi-active person. Clothing I look at him wearing to help me remember he is still here.

His clothes help to maintain an identity with a link to his past.

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When he was transferred to the residence from a hospital back in the summer of 2009, I loved seeing him in his own real clothes again. No more blue hospital gowns for this guy.

I learnt quickly that roomy clothing is the best. Not only were his legs not working to walk, but he had limited movement in his arms and shoulders. Plus troubles to understand getting-dressed directions on some days.

I was asked to please make cuts in the back of his shirts, sweaters and jackets. I didn’t bother to buy special clothes. With a slight cringe I cut into the backs of his clothes, did some simple hemming, and attached tie straps using my sewing machine.

It felt strange to cut through his favourite winter jacket with its fleece lining and tough gortex shell. Trying to get his jacket on to keep him warm for fall/winter outings was I have to admit a struggle.

Despite the gaping split up the back it was tricky because he sits so snuggled into his wheelchair and there was little room to try to manoeuvre his arms.

Fast forward to two years later when his old clothes are still important.

Plus the new ones to help him be as comfortable as possible.

Other family members showed me capes they used for outings in a wheelchair.

The cape idea was perfect!

No more arm holes to contend with. No more OMG am I going to break one of his arms. The dark blue rain proof cape is roomy with a warm lining and a hood. That expensive purchase has been worth every penny.

Beside his bed is a worn chest of drawers that holds his socks, undershirts and a variety of items important to me that represent traces of days gone by. I know he never explores inside those drawers. In the back of the top drawer is his old harmonica, a hair brush, playing cards, straws, sometimes chocolates and treats for Hugo our dog.

Now that winter is here once more I have pulled down the box marked “WInter Things” from the top shelf in his cupboard.

Inside are several hats our daughter had knitted as presents for him. Plus the 2010 Olympic Games red mittens I bought for him when I wanted him to see me carry the Olympic Torch on a cold February night.

The recreation staff got him and other residents out in their bus to witness what for me was an amazing experience worth sharing.

In the box are scarves he can wear. And best of all - his warm puffy boots. The kind that people wear in a cold ski cabin. Waterproof, easy to pull on and washable. And they cost less than $ 30.

For snoozes in his wheelchair I have bought small fleecy blankets. It’s time to buy more because for some reason, despite being tagged with his name - they tend to get lost. He doesn’t need any more socks. He needs blankies.

I’m aware my husband doesn’t wake up in the mornings wondering what to wear. The care-aides look after those choices.

My job as a caregiver is to make sure those choices are there. That he continues to be comfortable and warm.

Mary Gazetas is an artist, writer, volunteer who lives in Richmond B.C. Canada. Four years ago she knew nothing about Alzheimer’s. In fact she didn’t even know how to spell that word. At first she and her husband were overwhelmed by so much information available. Looking back it was a slow learning curve. Once diagnosed (February 2008) the progression of her husband’s Alzheimer’s was fairly slow until he went into a steep and sudden decline. Since then, Mary has continued to learn more - especially in the context of how to provide the best care in a residence environment.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room