How to Choose Adaptive Clothing

How to Choose Adaptive Clothing



Adaptive clothing is designed for people who have mobility issues, are confined to a bed or use a wheelchair.


Adaptive T Shirt For Women - Home Care Apparel - Royal MED


People with disabilities due to disease or injury, physical limitations in range of motion or those who are aging naturally often will have trouble at some point in their lives getting dressed and undressed.

Clothing manufacturers normally design their products for able-bodied people who are more interested in the look of the item than the ease of wearing it. Normal clothing is not designed with the ability of the wearer to dress themselves taken in to account.

For those who have trouble bending, reaching and flexing their limbs due to age, dressing can be a stressful and difficult task. For those with limbs that can’t be controlled or don’t function at all the act of getting dressed can be impossible. For those who are confined to a wheelchair the task of getting pants or dresses on usually requires the help or one or more caregiver. (Photo above – Silvert’s Adaptive T Shirt)



Adaptive Shirt Top For Men - Mens Disability Clothing - Black SMA
Adaptive Shirt For Men (Front & Back Photos)





Adaptive clothing is designed for people who have mobility issues, are confined to a bed or use a wheelchair.

Several companies have developed lines of clothing that are designed to be put on and removed while seated or lying down and to provide some measure of independence for the user who is able to dress themselves.

Among the products available for those who require clothing that is easy use are these:




Men’s Wear Adaptive Examples:


Mens Side Opening Arthritic Pants with VELCRO® Brand Fasteners - Navy XL

  • Men’s Polo, Tee & Undershirts that are open at the back with large flaps and close at the shoulders
  • Men’s underwear that closes at the sides using Quick Strip closures and pull tabs to unfasten
  • Men’s pants that close at the sides using VELCRO® brand fasteners
  • Shoes and slippers with VELCRO® brand  closures and non-slip soles






Women’s Wear


  • Women’s underwear that closes at the sides using Quick Strip closures and pull tabs to unfasten




"Be Amazing", Pack of 1, Repose Grey, Non-Skid, Barre, Pilates, Yoga, Labor and Delivery Socks, Non Slip, Grip Socks





For more on adaptive shoes, read:

Finding Practical Shoes for Elderly and Shoes and Slippers for Swollen Feet



Adaptive Shirts – completely open up, allowing the arms to slide into the garment sleeves without ever having to raise or lower arms, this also eliminates the struggle with small neck openings. The back overlap is then folded over and snapped into place. There is no split in the middle so everything is covered and is very discrete and many times you cannot even tell that it is an open back garment.


Adaptive Pants – completely open up in the back to allow you to get dressed while seated. Legs are inserted into the pant legs from a seated position and drawn up to the inner thigh. Caregivers simply snap the generous back overlap in place, providing complete coverage and discretion. Assisted disrobing is just as easy. The person has been effortlessly dressed by the caregiver from a seated position with no weight-bearing required.


Arthritis, lowered hand dexterity and partial paralysis can make buttons, small openings and laces impossible! Hidden velcro brand fasteners/easy touch closures in adaptive apparel can make garments and footwear comfortable and functional for the wearer. In addition, elasticized waists make it easy to pull on garments when challenged by lowered hand dexterity





What to Look For in Adaptive Clothing



Fabric Content


Choose fabrics that can be washed repeatedly and still look nice. Fabrics that resist shrinkage in everyday washing are polyester or a combination of polyester and cotton.

When choosing a cotton garment make sure that it is 50% polyester / 50% cotton or 65% polyester / 35% cotton blend. The garment will then not require ironing and will have a low shrinkage factor.

To ensure that your wheelchair clothing remains in good condition and does not shrink, it should contain less than 30% rayon, silk, linen or wool content.



Disability Differences To Keep In Mind





If you have arthritis you want to keep your clothing loose fitting and with elastic waist bands. Choose clothing that opens in front and not clothing that pulls over your head. Choose clothing with large buttons or fasteners.





Individuals with Parkinson’s can have problems with balance, and fine motor, so clothing that pulls on over the head or feet make dressing easier. Tremors and difficulty with fine motor tasks make buttons, ties and zippers a challenge.

If your balance is unsteady lie in bed to dress your legs by rolling side to side in bed, or sit in a chair with arms and a back for safety and support.





Diabetics have special circulatory concerns as approximately 65% of diabetics have some form of nerve damage. This lack or decreased sensation leads to inability to feel pain, most often in the feet, which can lead to an increased risk for infection from cuts and scrapes if undetected. You want to decrease restrictions and wearing of tight socks and shoes.





Keep your loved one who has Alzheimer’s on a regular routine and do not rush or hurry them. Use easy and familiar clothing, do not try to add layers or be fashionable with accessories. Encourage independence, label their closet and drawers making it easy for them to find items; keep choices simple such as sweat suits or pant sets that pull on with elastic waists.

Depending upon the advancement of the disease you may need to lay out their clothing in the order in which they need to put it on or hand it to them one item at a time. Encourage a regular toileting routine to decrease embarrassing moments. Be sensitive to the possibility of incontinence and consider using briefs or pads for dignity and easier toileting.

Consider a back zipper jumpsuit for men or women who may tend to undress inappropriately.



Spinal Cord Injury


If you have partial or complete paralysis from spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis or stroke you want to maintain as much independence in addition to keeping dressing as easy and successful as possible.

When you look good in your clothes you also feel good and your spirits are boosted. Keeping as active as possible encourages stronger muscles. Make dressing a success by using zippers that close in front or on the side, or easy pull on clothes for weak arm muscles.

For those with paralysis in the arms, back snap dresses and tops are easy for caregivers to assist putting on and taking off. Paralysis in the legs can make dressing and bathroom use a challenge. Try using side opening pants that feature either Velcro©, side zippers, snaps or easy access back flaps.

Wheelchair clothing with back snap openings may help make assisted dressing easier for those with paralysis and for those confined to a wheelchair.



Adaptive Equipment


Some adaptive equipment can help make dressing safer and easier. Using a grabber or reacher to assist with putting your pants on is another option.


Ableware Dressing Stick




You can use a button hook or dressing stick if you have limited shoulder and hand movement or strength. Use zipper pulls for jackets or pants.


Good Grips / Sure Grips Button Hook
Good Grips / Sure Grips Button Hook



To put your socks and shoes on you can use a sock aid and long handled shoehorn; and elastic laces are available for your tie shoes.



DressEZ 2-in-1 Shoehorn & Dressing Aid



Ecocity Reflective No Tie Shoelaces





Tips for Dressing Others


TIP #1: Start by dressing the person’s affected/weaker side first. When undressing, remove the unaffected side first.


TIP #2: Ask residents if they want help picking out their outfits or if they want you to do it. This provides them a sense of independence and choice. Provide a few options of outfits for them to choose from if they want to be involved.


TIP #3: When dressing a person in bed sit the head of the bed up. This gives their back muscles a chance to adjust to the upright position and gets their blood flowing. Put on their socks, pants, shoes, and so on. Aside from being easier on the resident, it will protect your back.


TIP #4: Not everyone is going to be happy to have help getting dressed. If you have a difficult resident, positive reinforcement, smiling, and a good attitude go a very long way.


TIP #5: Tell the person you’re dressing what is happening every step of the process, especially if the residents are confused. It keeps them in the loop, builds trust, and makes them more comfortable.


TIP #6: The most simple tip, but possibly the most important, be patient!





Wheelchair clothing for those with challenging physical abilities is available from several different companies. Adaptations include side zippers, elastic waist bands, back flaps , open back/snap shirts, sweaters, dresses, jackets, modified styles for those unable to stand include shortened tops and extra material for seated positions. Undergarments for dignity are also available.

Adaptive equipment is available to help make dressing safer and easier for individual performance.

Caregivers are able to dress those they care for with increased comfort and ease using the different styles of open back/shoulder snap clothing. Fasteners are strategically placed so as to not add increased pressure or skin problems.

If you experience difficulty getting in or out of your clothes, or you are a caregiver whose loved one requires assistance dressing, you will find that the right adaptive clothing can make life a lot easier.




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