Various items of equipment are available to help you dress and put on footwear.
It is advisable to seek advice from an occupational therapist before purchasing any equipment. An assistive device may not immediately make dressing easier, and a lot of practice is usually needed. You can contact the occupational therapist (OT) for your area through the Community Care section of your Health Services Executive area. Contact details for your local services are in your local area phone book.
If you decide to buy equipment privately it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an occupational therapist on the suitability of that equipment to your condition or situation. It is also recommended that you try out the equipment, if possible, before purchase.
For up-to-date information on specific products and suppliers in Ireland, visit the ‘Products and Suppliers’ section of the Assist Ireland online database (www.assistireland.ie). The information in this resource can also be accessed using the telephone support service on 0761 079 200 during office hours.
The information contained in this document is strictly for information purposes only. There are hazards with all equipment and the suitability of any solution is totally dependent on the individual. It is strongly recommended to seek professional advice and assistance before you consider buying any type of equipment mentioned in this Information Sheet.
A dressing stick is a length of wooden dowelling which is rounded at one end and has a rubber thimble or a hook at the other end. A dressing stick can help if you have stiffness or limited reach by:
- Bringing clothes round, or pushing garments off the shoulders.
- Pulling up zips, using the hook end.
- Tightening or loosening shoe laces.
- Pushing clothes down, eg pants, stockings.
- Pulling up straps.
REACHERS OR PICK-UP STICKS
Reachers or pick-up sticks have a pistol-type handle and a pincer grip at the end. They can be used to:
- Pick up clothes from the floor.
- Pull up underwear/trousers for people who are unable to bend at the hip.
- Push off socks/underwear/trousers.
A button hook consists of a thick handle and a hook, or two crossed wires, which are used to assist with fastening buttons. Button hooks need quite a lot of practice, particularly when using them with one hand. It helps if the edges of the garment can be held steady, and if the button-hole is on your stronger side.
A zip aid is a piece of cord or fine chain with a hook at one end and a tab at the other to assist with doing up zips.
This gadget consists of two sturdy plastic clips joined with a piece of elastic. The wearer attaches one clip to the upper garments and the other to the trousers before lowering the trousers to use the toilet. The 'Pants Clip' keeps the lower garments within reach when standing up after using the toilet.
This light plastic bracket slips around the user's neck and enables him or her to keep one side of a front fastening bra in position while manipulating the fasteners on the other side with one hand.
SOCKS AND STOCKING AIDS
Sock and stocking aids can help someone who has difficulty bending forwards to put on socks, stockings, tights and compression stockings. Ensure that you are sitting safely. Do not stand whilst using a sock/stocking aid. There are two versions available:
The flexible version is cone shaped and made of plastic or fabric. It has two holes for tapes/ribbons at the top. A double version can be used for tights.
A rigid version consists of a plastic semi-circle with handles.
How to use:
- Hold the gutter between the knees and ease the hosiery onto the gutter.
- Place the gutter on the floor by means of the handle.
- Slide the foot in. If necessary, press the foot against a firm object while easing the gutter over the heel and up the back of the leg.
- Pull the gutter up until it is possible to reach the stocking by hand.
- Remove the gutter and pull the stocking to the height required.
- Adjust and fasten.
Double gutters are available for tights. These are rather tricky to manipulate and require a lot of practice. People with poor grip or shoulder function may find pulling the tights up over the hip difficult. Pulling up with hands crossed over the body reduces the amount of shoulder movement required.
There are some rigid stockings aids designed for putting on compression stockings. If you wear the toeless stockings, you can get a slippery plastic gadget that helps you to slide the stocking on smoothly past the toes and heel.
There are also some slide sheet fabric gadgets designed for enclosed toe stockings, When using the slide sheet stocking gadget you need to be able to reach down to your feet. These gadgets may help a carer to assist with dressing if the wearer's skin is delicate.
HOW TO REMOVE SOCKS, STOCKINGS, AND TIGHTS
- Standing up and shaking the body may be enough to make stockings without lycra fall down once suspenders are released.
- Socks or stockings must be pushed round the heel - you may be able to do this by using your other foot.
- Pop socks and stay-up stockings will need to be pushed down more firmly than other styles of hosiery.
- A long handled shoehorn can be used.
- A dressing stick, a helping hand, or the ferrule of a walking stick can be used to assist pushing socks or stockings down the leg.
Finding footwear may be difficult for a number of reasons; some people are unable to reach their feet because they cannot bend, while others may have hand or grip difficulties.
Shoes can either be fastened or slip-on. Fastened shoes are usually easy to get into, provide firm support and are adjustable. Most slip-on shoes neither support the feet nor come up as far towards the instep as a shoe with a fastening.
Some trainers and walking boot style shoes are made with hooks instead of lace holes and these enable the wearer to leave the laces tied up and hook or unhook them from one side to get their
foot in and out.
If managing laces or buckles is difficult, consider Velcro or zip fastening shoes which, if they can not be found in high street shops, can be bought from specialist suppliers.
- Feet should always be positioned correctly within the shoes.
- The heels should be placed against the back of the shoe and any fastenings will then keep the foot in the right position.
- When putting shoes on, it helps to push the shoe against a heavy object or the other foot.
EQUIPMENT TO ASSIST WITH SHOE FASTENING
Lacing aids enable laces to be fastened using one hand only.
The 'no-bow' lacing aid is slid down both laces to tighten them and released by a strong pinch on the buttons on the side. It requires manual dexterity and some grip.
Enable the wearer to leave the laces fastened and unhook the laces from the button which is fixed in to the top lace hole.
These can be used to convert lace-up shoes into slip-ons and to put on shoes without bending down. Care must be taken to secure the tongue to one side of the vent to prevent it slipping into the shoe when sliding the foot in.
These laces can be positioned in existing laces holes and pulled with one hand to tighten them.
A zip fastener can be easier to manage than a lace; a ring added to the zip pull may make it easier to pull up with a dressing stick hook.
PUTTING ON AND TAKING OFF FOOTWEAR
Always ensure that you are sitting safely when putting on or taking off shoes.
Long handled shoe horns
Long handled shoe horns can assist people who cannot bend to put on their shoes. All footwear including slippers and trainers are best put on with a shoe horn, both for comfort and to prevent the back of the heel being walked on. Again, when slip- on shoes are worn care must be taken to prevent the tongue slipping down into the shoe and, if there is reduced sensation , ensure the toes are correctly positioned in the shoe.
A boot lever is a rectangular piece of wood with a V-shaped notch at one end. It is very useful for removing Wellingtons and other high-legged boots.
The heel of the shoe is put into the V-shape of the remover. The other foot is put on the remover to hold it steady. The heel can then be eased out of the shoe.
Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland (AOTI)*
Ground Floor Office
Bow Bridge House
Tel: 01-633 7222
Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP)*
Royal College of Surgeons
St Stephen's Green
Tel: 01-402 2148
Fax: 01-402 2160
VAT (Unregistered) Repayments Section
Tel: 065-684 9000
LoCall: 1890 202 033
Fax: 065-684 9248
Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)(UK charity providing advice and information and a comprehensive up-to-date database of disability equipment available in the UK)
380-384 Harrow Road
Tel: 0044 207 289 6111
Ricability(independent research body in UK which produces guides for older and disabled consumers based on professional research)
30 Angel Gate
326 City Road
Tel: 0044 207 427 2460
Fax: 0044 207 427 2468
*It should be noted there is currently no statutory system of registration to either an independent chartered institute or representative professional body for allied health professionals eg occupational therapists, chartered physiotherapists and speech and language therapists in Ireland. This is likely to change soon as the Health and Social Care Professional Bill published in October 2004 sets out a system of legal registration for health and social care professionals irrespective of whether they work in the public or private sector or are self-employed.