Pain, agitation and injury are all potential consequences experienced by wheelchair dependent people while being dressed in regular clothing. Whether living at home or in a care facility, with the inability to bear weight, the wheelchair dependent person is at an increased daily risk of injury as lack of balance, cognitive impairment, issues of gait and tripping are all risk factors when a person’s weight is supported by caregivers. Commonly, dressing, an activity that provided pleasure, increased self- esteem and dignity becomes stressful when limbs become stiff, joints have pain, muscles weaken and cognitive ability lessens. Adaptive or special needs clothing is a solution that reduces the risk of pain, agitation and injury and increases pleasure, dignity, self- esteem and comfort during the daily routine of dressing, undressing and toileting as the person remains seated or in bed while being dressed. Arms and legs can be simply placed through their respective openings and the clothing is secured at the back with fasteners.
The psychology behind being well dressed is widely known. Each of us experiences confidence and energy when dressed well and particularly when we are sporting a new outfit. Even when cognitive ability is reduced, the family and caregivers respond with pride and compassion in the good grooming of their loved ones and those they care for. Adaptive clothing provides a solution to regular and oversized clothing, hospital gowns and blankets when dressing becomes an unpleasant struggle for the various constituents. Dignity suits are also available for the spontaneous disrober to ensure that dignity is always maintained.
Why Is Adaptive Clothing Important to the Caregiver?
The stress and agitation during the dressing process is shared with the caregiver of a wheelchair dependent person. It is not uncommon for staff at residential care facilities to feel physical and emotional strain during the dressing process. Dressing an individual who cannot weight bear requires lifting, turning, rolling and repositioning. When there is cognitive impairment the physical and emotional strain is often greater as the patient becomes agitated and offers resistance. The physical and emotional strain experienced by the caregiver of an individual cared for at home is at least as significant if not more so because there often aren`t multiple people available to assist with the dressing process. In a study conducted a number of years ago in BC, it revealed that 57% of staff injuries were due to patient handling including dressing. Additionally, dressing a wheelchair dependent person in regular clothing requires a greater number of staff and staff hours and therefore fewer hours of caregiver time available for other resident tasks. The use of adaptive clothing reduces both the number of staff required to dress a resident or loved one and the amount of time spent dressing, undressing and transferring to a commode.
What Adaptive Clothing Options are Available?
Adaptive, special needs or open-back clothing is modified in its design to allow easy access relative to regular structured clothing. Side open slacks are domed on both sides to allow for easier managing compared to a zipper or fly and or small buttons. Individuals suffering from arthritis, Parkinson or other conditions that limit dexterity or strength in the hands would benefit from side open designed pants. Open-back slacks, tops, shirts, undershirts, nightwear and dresses are appropriate for wheelchair dependent or bed dependent people. Regular clothing can be adapted or split up the back but often results in misplaced domes causing pressure sores and does not allow for adequate fabric to create dignity panels for the wearer. Adaptive clothing is readily available in Canada, manufactured to allow easy access with the safe placements of closures and the maintenance of dignity and self-esteem with generous dignity panels overlapping behind the user to ensure that skin or undergarments are not exposed. While larger clothes can be purchased and adapted by a tailor, a little known fact is that adaptive or special needs clothing is tax exempt when a prescription from the residents doctor is presented by fax, mail or email. For further reference see the Canada Revenue Agency Link http:// www.cra-are.gc.ca/E/pub/gm/4-2/4-2-e.html or speak with your tax advisor.
What Should I Consider Before Making a Purchase?
-Ensure that you choose a supplier that stands behind the quality of the garments and selects fabrics that are soft to the touch, uses generous dignity panels for slacks and ensures proper placing of fasteners to lessen the risk of skin breakdown. Adaptive clothing should be designed for institutional washing and drying and therefore has some polyester content in most everything.
-What is the lifestyle of the person you are purchasing adaptive clothing for? There is a wide variety of styles, function and fabric to choose from when making a purchase. Ask yourself if the main objective is comfort and softness and if it is, purchase knit outfits that provide a little stretch and are easy to wear. If it is important to you and your loved one to be fashionable dressed each day in a style they were accustomed to, there is a wide variety of fabrics and styles to choose from for both men and women.
-Some residential facilities prefer different styles of adaptive clothing. Some insist that women wear dresses because it is simpler to put on one garment versus two for example. Although there are preferences stated by some facilities, the ultimate decision remains with the family to choose a style that suits and functions well for your loved one.
-Generally speaking, adaptive clothing should be purchased in the same size that you would purchase regular clothing in. The adaptive style allows for ease of dressing and therefore there is no need to increase the size of the clothing. Size sometimes varies by manufacturer as it does with regular clothing.
Edie Michel, Leed Solutions Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 800-218-7774