Living your best life with arthritis.

Adaptive clothes for people living with arthritis and other medical problems

Wardrobe full of clothesPutting on clothes can be a difficult task for people living with arthritis, limited mobility and range of motion, and other medical problems.

For someone living with arthritis, simple tasks, such as buttoning a shirt, tying shoelaces, or pulling up a zipper, are made difficult by joint pain and inflammation. Caregivers can help in this aspect but it can be a demeaning, intimate and tricky task for both parties. People with Alzheimer or dementia may also have trouble in dressing themselves. They may forget how to put on a shirt or which way the buttons face.

One way to make things easier is to use adaptive clothes. 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,” said Ms. Punithamani Kandasamy, a registered nurse and caregiving trainer at Active Global Specialised Caregivers. In an interview with the Straight Times in Singapore, Ms. Punithamani explains how different types of adaptive apparel and footwear can be useful for both the wearer and the caregiver. Below is an excerpt from the interview:


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 arm 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.

Besides adaptive clothing, you can also adjust your wardrobe in the following ways:

  • Wear slip-on shoes with no shoelaces
  • Instead of wearing an extra jacket, wear a big shawl or scarf
  • Buy touch-sensitive gloves so you can stay warm while using your mobile devices
  • Dress in layers or have clothing accessories such as leg warmers or arm warmers
  • Plan for days that you want to dress to impress to ensure you have help
  • Use jewellery, ties and handkerchiefs to compliment your wardrobe