Tips on helping seniors get dressed or undressed

(Alzheimer’s Association pic)

Let’s face it – dressing up for work first thing in the morning when you haven’t even had your tea or coffee can be quite daunting.

Imagine what it might be like for an elderly person, particularly one who cannot move with ease, or have an illness.

Here are some tips on helping your senior loved one get dressed or undressed with the minimum of fuss and confusion.

  • Have a few simple choices. Don’t make this daily ritual complicated, particularly for a senior who might be a bit slower, or may get confused with having to choose an outfit.

Provide just two or three simple choices that reflect the senior’s needs for the day or the weather and climate.

What’s key is to make the process simple: easy pullovers, loose-fitting shirts, soft pants or jeans and of course, comfortable shoes.

  • Be sensitive to their medical situation or mental status. If you abruptly come over and try to help them dress, a senior with dementia, for example, might become combative or difficult.

Ease into helping them. Come to them slowly and act with courtesy. Make them feel that while they think they don’t really need your help, you can make their life just a little easier.

  • Don’t make them wear what you want them to wear. Obviously, a thick sweater is not a good choice when there’s a heatwave. However, it’s their life.

Let them wear what they feel comfortable in, even if you think their choice of outfit is odd. Does it really matter that they love that gaudy pullover they bought in 1973? If they like it, let them wear it.

  • Dressing or undressing is a good time to check for medical issues. When not clothed – or partially clothed – you should take a quick look at their body to check for physical changes.

Do they have a bruise you didn’t see before? Is there’s a rash of some kind? Does a wound seem worse? Should a dressing be changed?

Is there any redness or irritation on their skin? Check their arms, legs, buttocks and feet in particular.

  • The fit of their clothes on their body may signal a sign of change in their health. Are their clothes baggy now? Perhaps they’ve lost weight?

Have they gained a lot of weight? Just noticing how their clothes fit may signal a need for a doctor’s checkup.

Remember you don’t have to do this alone. There are many resources online.

In fact, there are even a few Facebook groups focused on senior care and resources (and even just fun posts), including Seniors Aloud and Ageing Alone Malaysia.

This article was written by Andrew Mastrandonas, Co-founder and CEO of Pillar ( and reviewed by Dr Lim Geng Yan (M.D). Pillar provides a range of elderly home caregiving services, sending trained and certified professional caregivers and nurses to clients’ homes. For more information please visit