How adaptive clothing could make life more accessible
2nd March 2018
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Fashion is seen as a form of self-expression, but it has to be practical and comfortable as well as aesthetically pleasing. Finding clothing that fits these three areas can be difficult, but even more so for those that have further requirements. Those with limited mobility or dexterity may find themselves needing clothes that have less fiddly fastenings or alternative sleeve widths and often these cannot be found on the high street.
There has been steps forward to pushing more accessible clothing into the mainstream and most recently this is seen through Tommy Hilfiger’s ‘Runway of Dreams’ that explored adaptive clothing for children and made the news for its progressive attitude. Though many older adults would benefit from adaptive clothing, less are aware of where it is available from and how it can help.
What kind of adaptations?
Fastenings are often a point of difficulty especially when it comes to those who have lost some of their dexterity. Buttons are often too small and the pull tab of a zip can be hard to grasp. To counter this, companies have looked at alternative fastenings.
Buck and Buck have created blouses that fasten with Velcro. Though buttons do still appear on the blouse, they are purely for aesthetic purposes and thus the garment is much more manageable for those who struggle with arthritis.
Other designs make clever use of magnets instead of traditional fastenings to keep clothing closed in an accessible way. These offer independence to those who wish to dress themselves but have lost the dexterity to cope with small and delicate tasks.
Often it is not immediately obvious how clothing is adaptable and this allows the wearer to make a choice on visual preferences. However it also can make it difficult to understand how the clothing would aid the user and make life easier. Adapted clothing is great for those who struggle with buttons or hook and eye clasps and people who use wheelchairs or rely on an internal stair lift may require more than just fashion from their clothing.
Often adaptive clothing is designed with caring in mind and to allow people to be dressed in the most gentle and dignified manner. Carers can struggle with traditional clothing for a multitude of reasons, from constraints on the cuffs, to uncomfortable fastenings and these impact the experience for both the carer and the older adult.
To avoid this, clothing has been designed to fasten at the back. This often removes the need to pull clothing over the head and cause undue stress, especially if someone is being dressed in a rush.
Petal Back Clothing has an innovative design that shuns the use of any hard clasps and is instead the design uses overlaid fabric to cover modesty and allow the wearer to feel fashion forward. Linda Dugan, owner of Petal Back spoke about how the design is a gentle alternative:
“Our biggest sellers are the Petal Back nightwear followed by the Vest/singlet and then the day wear. This indicates the huge importance to minimize pain to those with physical limited movement who are cared for in care homes, their own homes and in Palliative care. It is also vital that the risk of injury to nursing professionals as well as untrained carers in home situations is eliminated as their care is essential.
“The ‘petal’ shaped back opens to the shoulder, slides up the arms then gently slips over the head. When being dressed this way there is no need to move the wearer’s shoulders, arms or elbows. Our fabrics are soft against the skin minimizing the chance of skin tears and yet still able to be laundered in commercial machines. In addition, it is faster (which saves nurse hours) and far less stress on the carer/nurse drastically reducing the chance of muscular injury to the nursing staff.”
With Wheelchairs in mind
For those who wish to stay in easy jeans, often traditional styles can cause discomfort. If they sit too low on the hips or have fashionable studs, they may not be practical for wheelchair users. Rollitex have a complete range of jeans that have discreet stretch waists and slightly longer legs that allow complete comfort for the user.
Many wheelchair users do not feel the need to use adaptive clothing. However, this is different for outerwear, especially coats as it can be difficult to remain both warm and dry in traditional designs. This has led to ponchos and other clothing being adapted to keep wheelchair users comfortable.
How they help
Adaptive clothing is either designed to lend more independence to the user, or to aid a carer in dressing a person. In both cases they often feature fabrics that are soft, durable and require little fuss like ironing. They are often without the extras that are seen as fashionable in more traditional designs. While buttons or studs may be seen as decorative on everyday clothing, they can catch, rub or generally cause discomfort if that person is a wheelchair user or spends a significant portion of the day inactive.
For carers, if a piece of clothing is designed with adaptability in mind, it often means there are alternative places to fasten the item. This means there is limited time spent struggling to get arms into sleeves or fasten hook and eyes, instead it is designed to be as efficient as possible. It also means with a lack of hard fastenings there is less chance of hurting older skin which can be more delicate. This reduces bruises and cuts that poorly designed clothing can inflict.
Who needs it?
Adaptive clothing is designed for those who have carers help them for day-to-day tasks or for people struggling with their traditional clothing. Adaptive clothing offers independence to those who no longer feel confident in their ability to fasten buttons or tie laces. By looking at alternatives, it allows them to enjoy their lives without any extra irritations.
For those who have carers, it allows the carer to spend more time seeing to the person’s needs and ensures less time is spent on the daily routines.
Image Credit: Kellyhogaboom