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Adaptive Clothing Reduces the Risk of Injury for Disabled People and Caregivers

  • Published: 2009-07-02 (Revised/Updated 2014-11-10) : Author: Pamela Clifton (Adaptations by Adrian) : Contact: -
  • Synopsis: Extended care facilities implemented an adaptive clothing program to see if staff and patient injuries could be reduced.

Quote: "Adaptive clothing not only reduced dressing time, but reduced injuries to both caregivers and the residents."

Main Document

In certain group homes and care facilities, the staff help dress non weight- bearing residents or steady them as they are dressing themselves.

This is the prime time when injury to the staff member or to the disabled person may occur. There are many facilities where the administration does not even invest in a Hoyer lift. The staff seeks Workman's Compensation for various back and shoulder injuries which occurred during bathroom activities. The disabled person is at the mercy of a caregiver nursing an injury or avoiding the use of a sore joint, and has no Workman's Comp.

In a recent Canadian study, two extended care facilities implemented an adaptive clothing program to see if the number of staff and patient injuries during hygiene and dressing activities could be reduced. After seamstresses made adaptations to the residents' clothing, the staff learned ways to assist the residents using them.

Shirts and dresses were split down the back and given snaps so that minimal shoulder movement and repositioning were needed. The outside seams of pants were opened and fitted with snaps. Thus, the disabled people were able to be dressed lying down without having to support their body weight.This reduced dressing time and increased safety and relaxation for both caregiver and resident. Residents' joint pain was reduced, particularly in the shoulder area, as the shirts or blouses were not drawn across the person's back, while the second arm was bent to a sharp angle by the caregiver and forced into the second sleeve. The caregivers did not have to help support the disabled persons' body weight at any time.

This study was successful, and these two facilities are still using adapted clothing today. Adaptive clothing not only reduced dressing time, but reduced injuries to both caregivers and the residents. Companies which manufacture adaptive clothing have improved on the techniques used in this study. They have made the pant legs wider to accommodate openings down the leg. Velcro on the outside seam is generally stiff at the hip and knee, noisy when unfastened, and very hard to line up without buckling.Outside seam zippers are durable, faster than snaps, and allow the front or the back of the pant to drop at toileting time. Shirts which go on from the front and fasten in the back with short strips of velcro interspersed with fabric save the person from having to bend the second arm to a sharp angle to enter the sleeve. Snaps down the back of a dress are more durable than velcro, but are time consuming to snap. Sometimes a snap will fail. A zipper is the fastest and sturdiest way to put on back opening or leg opening items.

Unfortunately, most of the adapted clothing available today is made by the geriatric clothing makers. These items are inexpensive and easy to typecast, as they feature silk-screened roses or kittens on the front of sweatshirts stitched to sweatpants and using flimsy side zippers. A perusal of internet adaptive clothing sites quickly reveals the makers of geriatric lines. However, there are a few quality manufacturers of adaptive clothing. Style is increasing important to these companies. Because their products are for a niche market, and they are usually small upstarts, these companies have trouble competing with Walmart. Trying their clothing, however, quickly reveals their superiority to Walmart. Their pants are designed for wheelchair use. Their shirts are fitted with easy on adaptations, and their coats are designed with wheelchairs in mind. Because their fabrics and construction are of a higher quality than Walmart, their products last for years. This makes them less expensive than Walmart. For example, three pair of $46 sitter pants lasting five years are more cost effective at $138 than 6 pair of $10 Walmart sweats which must be replaced in less than a year. You would have spent $28 a year for the quality pants and $60 for the Walmart pants, plus the gasoline to shop for them. The Walmart pants leave part of the behind exposed as they ride down in back, and must be bought too large to make them easier to put on. Try the adaptive clothing companies (! You will be pleasantly surprised with the personal attention you will receive and the custom options added to your clothes! However, order only if returns are accepted and if you're able to get the features you want.

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