Mom and I went out shopping today to try and find her some new clothes that fit her ability requirements and our lifestyle requirements. We needed shirts that were washable, dryable, no-iron, wrinkle free, that you do not need to put over your head, with large button holes, for a petite height, and which fit Mom’s body shape (which is the shape of most women, not a size 2.)
It is a good thing Mom and I have so much fun together or we would have lost it today. Most of the shirts that fit were in a size with sleeves which were much too long and shoulders that sagged. The suggestion from the sales representatives was to layer. We should get a smaller sized shirt, leave the shirt open, and wear a tank (which you slip over your head) underneath it. I tried explaining that layering was too complicated with Mom’s Parkinson’s and dementia. One sales associate treated me like I was the worst daughter in the world by saying Mom needed clothes that were easy to wear, even though Mom was right there agreeing with me. I did a lot of the talking because Mom was having a hard time explaining what she needed. It was as though the woman thought I was over exaggerating Mom’s limited ability and I was putting her down. Frankly, it was offensive to be treated that way- judged as if I was a bad person. And it was demeaning to Mom that this woman expected Mom to be different and she could not to recognize Mom’s limitations.
I know many people don’t truly understand Parkinson’s or dementia. People usually think Parkinson’s means head or hand tremors. They don’t know that often patients can’t use buttons well, or they can’t lift their arms over their head or put their arms behind their back. People do not understand that dementia affects a person’s ability to understand where the button holes are and figure out how the clothes go on. This is because we have a lack of awareness of these two diseases. We do not talk about them enough and most of the time patients are relegated to their homes or in a nursing home.
There are clothes made for people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s but they are highly unflattering attire. We looked at them, but Mom was not ready to go there. Needing to wear unappealing clothes because of Mom’s illness is another way to take away who she it. It says: “Look at all you have lost, we do not even make nice clothes for you to wear.” It is just another way that her worth and dignity are slowly taken away, and another way we remove people like Mom from mainstream society.
I know some people might think something like clothing is a petty thing to care so much about. I know the fact that we even have the ability to buy new clothes is a blessing. However, the clothing issue is important because it is another part of this disease which makes life harder for Mom, and it shows us how our society treats people who are different.