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Personal care

Caring for yourself can get difficult as you get older, especially if you have a health condition or disability.

Equipment is available to assist with a variety of tasks. We recommend that you seek advice from an occupational therapist before buying or using any of this equipment.

Dressing and undressing

If you find dressing difficult, there are a number of things you can try to remain independent. Choosing appropriate styles, fabrics, adapted clothing and using special techniques or equipment can all help to make dressing easier.

  • Skirts and trousers with elasticated waistbands are often easier to manage than those with fasteners.
  • Loose fitting and stretchy clothing, such as t-shirts, will often be easier to manage, and you won’t need to do up buttons or zips.
  • If you do have clothing with fasteners, make sure they’re at the front or easy to get to.
  • Magnetic or Velcro fasteners are usually easy to manage. Shirts, trousers, bras and skirts are available ready made with these types of fastenings. You also can adapt your own clothing, such as using Velcro dots instead of buttons to fasten shirts.
  • Clothes made from knitted or jersey fabrics are often easier to manage than more stiff, woven fabrics.
  • Smooth, slippery fabrics such as silk can be easier to get on and off, as they glide easily over your skin or other layers of clothing.
  • Hook and eye fastenings can be difficult to handle from the back.  Front fastening bras are available and are usually easier to manage. You could also consider a fasten-free bra, which is pulled on over your head or up from the floor.
  • Zips can be quicker and easier than buttons, although open ended zips can be difficult to align and fasten if you have pain or stiffness in your fingers. Extended tabs or loops can be added to zip tags to make them easier to grip and fasten.

Washing, showering and bathing

Everyone is different in strength, balance and agility and has a unique home environment, including their bathroom layout.

It may be a good idea for you to arrange an assessment with an occupational therapist to discuss any issues you have with getting in and out of the bath, standing in or using a shower and standing at the basin.

Here are a few things that you can do yourself:

  • Put nonslip strips, mats or tiles in your tub and shower to help prevent falls. To combat tripping, secure any loose corners on mats.
  • Be sure to keep the tub clean to counteract slippery soap scum or mould.
  • Keep the bathroom floor dry, making sure it has no water on it. A weighted shower curtain will help ensure that no water leaks onto the floor.
  • Make sure your bathroom is properly lit during the day and night.
  • Give your shower a handheld or adjustable shower head. You can place it where you need it, minimizing your movement in the shower.
  • Put items you use regularly within easy reaching distance, so you don't have to stand on steps, bath edges or move around a lot to reach them.
  • Take your time. The more you rush, the more likely you are to fall.

Using the toilet

Being able to use the toilet independently is something that most people take for granted and if help is required it can cause distress.

In some cases, you can regain independence by using equipment, while in other situations more complex solutions are needed. Speak to an occupational therapist to help you decide what would be best for you.

Here are some ways to help yourself now:

  • Make sure your path to the toilet is well lit at night.
  • Consider if a special frame, rails or a higher seat would be best to help you get on and off the toilet.
  • Never use a walking frame to hold onto whilst standing up from a toilet.  It’s not designed for this purpose and can easily tip over.
  • Talk to your GP about any continence issues.

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