Dressing Aids

You wake up, you get dressed: it’s a simple formula that most people have practiced for as long as they can remember. However, for older persons with arthritis or with limited mobility, the second part of the equation may be much more difficult than one might think. Painful finger joints make it hard to fasten buttons, a stiff back may make bending down to tie a shoelace too strenuous, or severe disabilities may make pulling a sock onto a foot impossible, and suddenly the seemingly simple task of putting on one’s clothing becomes very frustrating.

Dressing aids are available for persons who have the use of only one hand or arm or have limited joint mobility due to arthritis, stroke, multiple sclerosis, head trauma, or any other cause. There are many relatively simple assistive devices that can make the daily ritual of getting dressed much easier. These dressing aid products can assist you in everything from securing a hard-to-reach zipper to putting on your shoes. Several products are described below.

Dressing Sticks

Persons with limited reach may find a dressing stick helpful. This s a long-handled stick with a hook or a grasping “claw” on the end. Hook dressing sticks can be used to pull on jackets, pull up pants, or adjust shirts. Grasping dressing sticks can do the same, and the claw on the end is activated by squeezing a trigger or pushing a button. For individuals who have difficulty bending, a limited range of movement or the use of only one arm or hand, a dressing stick can be a valuable tool.

Button Hooks and Zipper Pulls/Rings

Buttons can be difficult to pull through a button hole for a person who has arthritis and cannot manipulate small objects. Button hooks can help to make this process easier. Button hooks consist of a handle with a wire loop on one end. The hook slips through the button hole, loops around the button, and pulls the button back through the button hole. Zipper pulls are also good for persons who cannot grasp small objects like zipper tabs. They can also be used to secure hard-to-reach zippers. zipper pulls work by hooking a ring through the hole in the zipper tab. The user needs only to tug the zipper pull until the zipper is closed. These devices eliminate the need for manipulating small objects while getting dressed.

Sock Aids and Long Shoehorns

Socks can be difficult to put on for a person who has difficulty bending at the waist or the knees. Sock aids can help to eliminate this problem. The user puts a sock on thin piece of plastic or cloth designed to hold the sock open, slips his or her foot into it, and pulls the sock on with two pull tabs. Once the socks are on, shoes can also be put on without bending. Long shoehorns are like regular shoehorns with long handles. This allows a person to put shoes on without having to bend at the waist. For persons who have painful or stiff backs, sock aids and long shoehorns can be of great assistance.

Elastic Shoelaces and Velcro Adapters

Shoes with shoelaces present persons with back pain with a dilemma: if you put your shoes on and then try to bend down to tie them, it hurts, but if you tie your shoes before you attempt to put them on, your feet won’t go in. Fortunately, elastic shoelaces and velcro shoe adapters solve this problem. With the laces, you can tie them first, then slip your feet into your shoes. Because the laces are elastic, they will stretch to allow your feet in, and then reduce to a tighter fit. Velcro shoe adapters are tied into the lace holes of the shoes and then work like other shoes with a velcro closure.

Long-Handled Brushes and Combs

As the name implies, long-handled brushes and combs work like other brushes and combs, but they are attached to a long handle. This makes them very useful for persons with limited range of motion or with pain and weakness in the shoulders and elbows. The brush or comb is often angled on the handle, requiring even less bending of the arms.

Further Information

The following companies sell, via mail order, most or all of the products described above:

Aids for Arthritis, Inc.
3 Little Knoll Court
Medford, NJ 08022
(609) 654-6918

AliMed, Inc.
297 High Street
Dedham, MA 02026-9135
(800) 225-2610

Maddak, Inc.
Pequannock, NJ 07440-1993
(201) 628-7600

P.O. Box 3209
Farmingdale, NY 11735
(516) 752-0521

North Coast Medical
187 Stauffer Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95125-1042
(800) 821-9319

Sammons Preston, Inc.
P.O. Box 5071
Bolingbrook, IL 60440-5071
(800) 323-5547

Smith & Nephew, Inc.
One Quality Drive
P.O. Box 1005
Germantown, WI 53022-8205
(800) 558-8633