Top 5 AT Items for Dressing

By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

While I have chronic back pain and other hidden disabilities, I didn’t have a need for AT for dressing until I was very pregnant. Now, I have a new appreciation for it! I’m interested to hear what others use for dressing, but in the meantime, I’ve compiled this list from my personal experience and my work advocating for supports for community living.

  • Elastic Shoelaces or slip on shoes plus long handled shoehorn: Elastic shoelaces have been a revelation to some people I’ve met—they turn tied shoes into slip on shoes. Easily and cheaply obtained, they are a great piece of AT. Pair them with a long handled shoehorn, and getting shoes on in the morning just gets easier.
  • Dressing Stick: Dressing sticks tend to be 18-24 inches long with one side with a “c” hook on it for pulling zippers and shoelaces and the other end has a puller/pusher hook on it for putting on shirts and pants/skirts or pushing down skirts/pants and socks. It is especially helpful when you have use of one arm or have limited arm movement or trouble reaching or bending.
  • Sock Aid: Another item beneficial when reaching or bending is a barrier—I used my sock aid often in my third trimester. The one I used has a terry cloth side to help grip the sock and hold it in place until you get it on your foot. I’ve seen videos featuring the Sock Slider on Facebook and it, too looks promising—like the sock aid I used but no need to pull on handles, it sits on the floor with the sock opened by a plastic tube for you to slip your foot through and into your sock.
  • Doff N Donner: A lot of people have shared with me the need for something to help them get compression stockings on. The Doff N Donner is a newer product designed to help with this taxing task. Shaped like a very large, ribbed, rubber cuff for a sweatshirt, this product can be used with an accessory called a cone (the cone really just looks like a mini Washington Monument to me with a suction cup base) to load the stocking on the cuff. You can also use a baseball bat or your arm to load the stocking on the cuff. According to the manufacturers website, people can use the Doff N’ Donner themselves or with the help of an assistant. It can be used with a sock aid to reach your foot with practice as well.

It’s hard to describe the action needed to make the Doff N’ Donner work but there are great videos on the manufacturer website and a couple on YouTube. There is even one showing how the Doff N’ Donner can be used to put stockings over bandages.

We have these devices available to try through our AT demonstration kits throughout the state so you can see and try them and decide if they work for you. Our website lists locations for these kits.

  • Adaptable Clothing: So… in looking for resources for adaptive clothing, all of the websites I came across were pretty ableist and most were geared toward older adults with all the models on the website being older white men and women. Many used outdated language like “handicapped” and some just looked like medical gowns and hospital gear. If you have some more inclusive adaptive clothing resources to share, please do! Adaptive clothing includes items like shirts with back snaps so that you don’t have to raise your arms to put them on or put them over your head and ponchos that cover wheelchairs for warmth instead of the hassle of a coat. It also includes easy on and off items, and even shoes that are adaptable for swelling. In my own life, I’ve found that more universally designed clothes helped a lot. I had swelling and back pain—and a growing stomach—during pregnancy so found the tall and curvy leggings from Lularoe and yoga pants with a fold down waist from Target were easy to get on and worked really well. I could not get maternity pants to stay up. Tunic tops were also a necessity with changes in my body size. I found a pair mesh clogs that kept my swelling feet cooler and were not tight to begin with. I also wore a lot of dresses that were breathable cotton and had ruching on the sides that allowed for expansion.

What devices or clothing hacks have you devised to help with dressing?

Modify Your Home and Age in Place

By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Program StaffThe outline of a home with the words Home Sweet Home inside it

A study, Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE), funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, showed that home modifications and access to AT (assistive technology), helped older adults age in place. The study results indicate 75% of participants were able to perform more activities of daily living than before they entered the study and symptoms of depression also improved.

The older adults who participated were paired with a team including an occupational therapist, nurse, and handyman who worked with them over a period of five months. Together, the team helped choose and install AT and make home repairs to improve safety and access. The budget for the AT, repairs, and handyman work was $1300.

Everyone in the study was on both Medicare and Medicaid and had barriers to completing activities of daily living including bathing, dressing, using the toilet, and walking across a small room.

A key aspect of the program was supporting the older adults to set their own goals instead of the professional team setting the goals for them. After the study was completed, participants are continuing to contact the researchers and share goals they are setting and achieving. This important work illuminating the benefits of AT and home modifications is expanding. One group is replicating the program in Michigan through Michigan State University—calling it MiCAPABLE and working with people who participate in the MiChoice Medicaid Waiver program in the state. We are always excited to see increased access to AT!

What programs and services have you accessed to improve your ability to age in place? Were they medical-model driven, or did you steer your goals? What kind of AT or home modifications improved your life?