Adaptive Clothing for Disabled, Elderly or Physical Disability
Published : 2015-03-25 - Updated : 2020-06-11
Author : Disabled World - Contact: www.disabled-world.com
Synopsis* : Information on adaptive clothing designed for people with disabilities, seniors, and mobility challenged. Includes definitions and terms relating to adapted clothes for disabled persons. Adaptive clothing is defined as garments and footwear specially designed for people with disabilities. For some conditions, particular with the elderly, it is essential that the materials used are not going to be abrasive to the skin.
What is Adaptive Clothing?
Adaptive clothing, or adapted clothes, are defined as clothing, garments and footwear specially designed for people with physical disabilities, the elderly, the infirm and post surgery patients who may have difficulty dressing themselves due to an inability to manipulate closures, such as buttons and zippers, or due to a lack of a full range of motion required for self dressing eg. arthritis sufferers, quadriplegics and paraplegics. Adapted clothing also makes dressing and undressing patients easier for caregivers, nurses, and hospice staff, and provide nonrestrictive comfort to the wearer.
There are many styles and medical purposes for disabled clothing - mostly garments with zippers that provide access to parts of the body that would otherwise require the clothes to be removed entirely. With adaptive clothing, a disabled or elderly patient can retain dignity, can provide some level of self-care, and experience the added comfort of quicker access to medical appliances and needs for both them and for a nurse or physician.
Who Wears Adaptive Clothing?
Over 55 million people in the United States have some kind of disability, some of them with challenges requiring a high level of care by others. Most people in any walk of life know someone who has a disability, and many of these disabilities can make even simple tasks like getting dressed very difficult. Medical adaptive clothes are useful for those with limited mobility (temporary or permanent) and medical conditions including: the elderly, the disabled, post-surgery needs, nursing homes, special needs, joint therapy, incontinence, fitness needs, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, stroke victims, arthritis victims, and others.
Accessible Clothing Terms You May Come Across
- Cut-away Garments: This where the seat of the garment has been "cut away" providing easier personal care by the caregiver and comfort for the wearer.
- Back-flap Pants: These are pants designed with fabric that overlaps at the seat and is attached by snaps at the waist to allow for ease in self-toileting for the wheelchair user.
- Foot Orthoses: Foot orthoses comprise a custom made insert or foot-bed fitted into a shoe. Commonly referred to as "orthotics" these orthoses provide support for the foot by redistributing ground reaction forces as well as realigning foot joints while standing, walking or running.
- One-piece Jumpsuits: These are defined as garments having back zipper access to prevent the wearer from disrobing inappropriately and assist in toileting and personal care needs for the individual.
- Plus Size Clothing: Also called Outsize in some countries, these are extra large or oversize clothing sizes. The term is usually used for female clothing items. As garment sizes vary from country to country, the starting point for plus sizes also varies. In the UK the starting point is size 10, the equivalent sizes are 14W in the US, 42 in France, 40 in Germany, and Size 16 in Australia.
- Rear Closure Garments: These are special clothing items that open down the back to facilitate dressing people who cannot raise their arms over their head to put on a shirt or dress, or who are confined to a wheelchair or bed.
- Side Snap Pants: Side snap pants feature snaps on both sides of the pants at the waistband providing ample room for care and dressing comfort, and making the waist area adjustable.
- Side-zip Garments: Side-zip garments feature zippers down both sides allowing greater ease in dressing and facilitates the transfer process in toileting.
Ginger Dosedel, founder of Sew Much Comfort, visits with arriving patients April 6 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Sew Much Comfort is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that designs adaptive clothing for wounded and injured servicemembers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Chuck Roberts).
What to Look For When Purchasing Adaptive Clothes
- For some conditions, particular with the elderly, it is essential that the materials used are not going to be abrasive to the skin.
- Dignity is important, make sure the designs bear this in mind. Generous overlapping at the rear with night and day gowns and high backed waistbands for those in wheelchairs etc.
- The fabrics that are used need to be of the highest quality and therefore able to withstand rigorous cleaning and usage.
- Check where fasteners are located so that undue pressure is not applied to tender areas of the body which can then produce sores etc.
- Garments that hang near wheelchair brakes or wheels, can be hazardous.
- Split shoulders allow dressing without having to place the clothing over the wearers head as the garment can be donned around the person.
- Adaptive clothing should benefit the wearer both physically and psychologically, quality clothing often makes us feel good about ourselves, promoting a sense of well-being.
- Feels like normal clothes: Any disabled or mobility Garments should fit as well as any regular piece of clothing (albeit usually a bit wider in certain areas to stow away medical enhancements). But they should feel natural and comfortable for the wearer.
- Looks like normal clothes: There is a trend in medical wear for more fashionable disabled clothing and garments. This is true in graduated compression stockings, undergarments and swimwear for ostomates, and naturally, adaptive clothing. Medical enhancements to adaptive clothing should be discreet modifications; lightweight additions that do not bulk the garments, and allow unique enhancements like zippers to be easily tucked away and hidden.
- Built to last medically and fashionably: A good adaptive garment will have medical benefits that last as long as the life of the garment, so all adaptive clothes will go through many additional processes in development to enhance medical uses and to produce a durable, lasting piece of clothing.
- Broad Range of Sizes: People come in all shapes and sizes, so clothing should come in all shapes and sizes. For the best mobility and style, the perfect size adaptive clothes will make all the difference.
Linda Trumble, vice-president of Sew Much Comfort, an organization that produces adaptive clothing for injured servicemembers, demonstrates how pants are adapted to fit over an external fixator device, where screws are placed into the bone and a device is attached to the screws from outside the skin during a visit to Peterson AFB March 31. The pants are adapted to fit over the device allowing the patient to blend in while out in public. Along with all the civilian clothing they produce or alter, Sew Much Comfort also adapts uniforms for those returning to duty. Since its inception, Sew Much Comfort has shipped more than 75,000 articles of clothing to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals and recovery centers around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Duncan Wood).
When Purchasing Garments Online or Overseas
In clothing, clothing size is defined as the label sizes used for male and female garments sold off-the-shelf. There are various standard sizing systems around the world depending on the garments, such as dresses, tops, skirts, and trousers - as well as size differences by country.
For those wishing to buy cheaper adaptive clothing - or even standard shoes and clothes items - from China, Japan, Mexico, Italy etc. be sure to study our Male and Female Clothes Size Conversion Charts before ordering, as international standards regarding clothing sizes can vary greatly from country to country.
Neck Size: Measurement Chart and Health Information - Information on how to measure human neck size. Includes collar sizes measurement chart in inches and centimeters, and possible health implications relating to larger neck sizes.
Brown and white adaptive clothing items hanging on a clothes rack.
Designing and Making Adaptive Clothing at Home
- Pinterest: Provides a wide range of pictures with links to adapted clothing projects you can do from home - (www.pinterest.com/lmswedberg/diy-adaptive-clothing/)
- Adaptive Clothing for Elderly and People with Disabilities Forum: Provides a place to post questions and solutions for sewing your own adaptive clothing - (sewing.patternreview.com/SewingDiscussions/topic/57190)
- Fashion Freaks: The Fashion Freaks website is filled with basic patterns and sewing instructions, descriptions on how to adapt ready made clothes and so much more - all of it suited for wheelchair users - (en.fashionfreaks.se)
- The Seams: An independent podcast and occasional story series for NPR, explores the business of fashion for the disabled - www.theseams.org
Sew Much Comfort
*Sew Much Comfort is a nonprofit organization of more than 1,000 volunteers world-wide who provide adaptive clothing for injured servicemembers at no cost. They alter clothing to meet the unique needs of those recovering from their wounds, or they create clothing from scratch. Since its inception, Sew Much Comfort has shipped more than 75,000 articles of clothing to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals and recovery centers around the world. For more information about Sew Much Comfort, visit their Web site at www.sewmuchcomfort.org
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Cite Page: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: Disabled World. Electronic Publication Date: 2015-03-25 - Revised: 2020-06-11. Title: Adaptive Clothing for Disabled, Elderly or Physical Disability, Source: <a href=https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/adaptive-clothing.php>Adaptive Clothing for Disabled, Elderly or Physical Disability</a>. Retrieved 2021-06-14, from https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/adaptive-clothing.php - Reference: DW#148-347.