Help At Your Fingertips

Adaptive clothes for those with medical problems

Elderly people in Tampines.
Elderly people in Tampines.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Putting on clothes can be a knotty task for elderly people with medical problems that hinder their regular movements.

A stroke, for instance, can result in a person losing mobility and strength, as can arthritis and Parkinson's disease.

Simple tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or pulling up a zip, suddenly become a frustrating experience for them. These people may need help from a caregiver, but, even so, it can be a demeaning and tricky process for both parties.

One way to make things easier is to use "adaptive apparel", said Ms Punithamani Kandasamy, a registered nurse and caregiving trainer at Active Global Specialised Caregivers.

Adaptive clothes have details like Velcro tabs instead of zips and buttons, as well as adjustable or removable components that help to save time and reduce the risk of injury.

"More importantly, this type of clothing improves one's comfort and bolsters self-esteem," she said.

Adaptive clothes are available online, from websites such as Purple Threads and

Choose materials that are gentle on the skin, said Ms Punithamani. "Where possible, designs and colours should be aligned to the wearer's preference, as well- selected clothes also enhance his psychological well- being."

Meanwhile, therapeutic footwear can be found at retailers like The Diabetic Shop and The Shoe Co.

Ms Punithamani explains how different types of adaptive apparel and footwear can be useful for both the wearer and the caregiver.

Poon Chian Hui


Older people who suffer from arthritis, swollen feet and legs, or who are prone to foot diseases, may benefit from special footwear.

Therapeutic shoes may have removable insoles and arch support, and wedges or heels that prevent injuries. For instance, "rocker bottom" shoes have thick soles that ease pressure on the ball of the foot. The rounded heels help to limit unnecessary motion in the ankle and mid-foot. For people with arthritis, this makes walking less painful.

Extra-wide footwear with adjustable straps are helpful for people with water retention in their feet, as they can accommodate swelling.


This one-piece attire helps to guard against inappropriate disrobing in public, which some people, such as those with dementia, may be inclined to do.

The jumpsuits usually feature long zippers and fasteners at the back, making it challenging for the wearer to take them off by himself.

Loose sleeves and elastic waistbands help to ensure a good fit, without compromising on comfort.

Best of all, the jumpsuits are designed to look like normal two-piece outfits, so one does not feel or look awkward in them.


These garments feature a large overlapping flap across the back at each shoulder with snap-on fasteners.

The garment can be slipped on easily from the front, which is like putting on a jacket back to front.

The wearer does not have to raise his arms or struggle with pulling the shirt over his head, making it suitable for people with limited mobility.

The open-back design also allows people with paralysis, Parkinson's disease and arthritis, as well as the wheelchair-bound, to get dressed while seated.



This type of pants can be worn while one is seated. An overlapping flap of cloth covers the buttock area, allowing easy access to the rear. This may be helpful for care- givers of elderly wheelchair users who have urinary or bowel incontinence, for instance.

The pants are easily secured by fasteners at the side or the back of the waist. As they are fairly easy to detach, such pants allow for a quick change.

They are loose enough to accommodate incontinence aids, such as a urinary or faecal collector bag, in a discreet manner.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Adaptive clothes for those with medical problems'. Print Edition | Subscribe