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Dressing and Undressing: The Daily Duty Made Easier

One way in which we Parkinson's patients (PWPs) can save precious time and energy is by finding techniques to help us get into and out of clothes more quickly and with greater ease. Recently, I reviewed a selection of mail-order catalogues for some ideas, then dipped into the Parkinson's Mailbag for suggestions from fellow PWPs that PDF News & Review readers might find helpful.

First, some sound advice. Make sure you plan your dressing and undressing routine and time carefully. Allow a little extra time. Be sure that your medications are working well. Getting dressed before your medications have taken effect, or in an off-period when you have limited motion, can be anything from aggravating to disastrously frustrating. This means that my morning routine proceeds in this order: 1) medications, 2) bath, 3) breakfast, 4) dressing for the first half of the day.

Stockings, panty hose, slacks, sweat suits, and track pants can be put on more easily if there is someone assisting you who can help you lie back on a bed with your feet in the air! Let your caregiver lower the garment onto your legs, allowing gravity to assist. For socks and panty hose, there are also a number of clever helpers. Independent Living Products, in Arizona specializes in adaptive products, (www.ilp-online.com or call (800) 377-8033 for a free catalogue) and has the "Easy-Pull Sock Aid" which costs $14.95. A flexible plastic trough makes putting on socks or stockings easier. You simply pull your sock over the trough, slip your foot inside and then pull the trough away.

Shirttails can be both painful and difficult to tuck in. Jean Williams in Florida wrote to us with a handy trick. Using a clothes hanger or ruler, maneuver it behind your back and push down on the remaining tail of the shirt. Do this on both sides and then the back, before fastening your slacks or skirts. They'll be no more unsightly bulges or flapping shirttails! Bruce Medical Supplies, Massachusetts sells a "Dressing Stick" which costs $7.95 (800 225-8446 or www.brucemedical.com) and is a similar idea.

Zipper tabs can sometimes be difficult to pinch. A handy ring-pull device from Independent Living Products, the same company I mentioned earlier, clips on to transform a pesky little zipper tab into a manageable one-inch ring. A pack of three costs just $3.95.

For encouraging stiff shoes onto unwilling feet, long-handled stainless steel shoehorns can help (a plastic version costs $2.95 at Independent Living Products). Once on, the shoe (if the laceable kind) may be secured with "Easy Laces", lockable shoelaces from the Stretch-Lace Co. Inc. (www.easy-lace.com or (800) 572-3247). Recommended by Katie Stokley from Arizona, these laces come in over twenty-five colors and tie with one single pull. At $3.95 per pack of four (plus p & p), why "knot" give them a try?

Loosely fitting clothes are a godsend. Zippers on the ankles and legs of outer pants are a great help too. Snaps at the waist, shirtfront, cuff or anywhere, are much easier than buttons. And Velcro is simply gold. It can close sneakers, seals seams on dresses, skirts, pants or cuffs. Just press the two surfaces together, and two pieces of cloth come together like birds of a feather! Your local seamstress will easily add snaps or Velcro to your favorite clothing items. Or call Silvert's, ((800) 387 7088 or see www.silverts.com) or Dr. Leonard's, Ph: (800) 785-0880, two mail-order companies that specialize in easy-to-wear clothes and footwear. You'll always look dressy!

Your may find that long pants are managed more easily on a rollable slacks rack than on hangers in a closet. I also keep two or three pairs of comfortable, cotton gardening gloves for dressing indoors in cooler weather. My hands can be painfully sensitive to cool drafts, so I even wear gloves to bed when needed! The opposite problem, sweating, a common side-effect of medications, is easily handled by using a large cotton bandana to absorb perspiration on the back of one's neck, and on the face.

For men, the problem of neck-ties can be eased using clip-on neckties. These have, right against the top of the knot, an easily reached, hidden metal snap to fasten. The "Towncraft Woven Poly Clip-On Tie" comes in several handsome designs and can be purchased for $15.00 at JC Penny (www.jcpenny.com or (800) 222-6161).

With so many tips, devices and aids available, dressing can always be an exciting adventure!

Next issue, we'll be sharing tips and suggestions for a good night's sleep. Please write to me with your suggestion c/o PDF or at info@pdf.org.

QUICK QUIZ: Why did Napoleon Bonaparte need to hold his hand against his stomach between the buttons of his waistcoat?