by Kim Keller
Alice can no longer pick out her clothes in the morning. You see, Alice has Alzheimer’s. It’s a cruel disease that gradually robs you of your coherence and judgment and memories, but also of the ability to do all the little things you’ve taken for granted your entire life.
Alice’s large extended family, who affectionately refer to themselves as “Team Alice,” first noticed the sartorial difficulty when they found Alice wearing uncharacteristically mismatched outfits, like slacks and a pajama top. So, Mary Clare, the eldest of Alice’s daughters (third eldest of Alice’s eight kids), started helping her mom select an outfit for the day during their routine morning phone call. But as the disease progressed and the dementia deepened, Alice couldn’t quite grasp all the information over the phone.
Mary Clare had a clever solution: numbered clothes hangers, with hooks. The hooks allowed Mary Clare to attach a second hanger and thus assemble a complete outfit, all together in one configuration. She then labeled each hanger with a number drawn on masking tape. She put together seven outfits, a week’s worth of wardrobe, and kept a list of each outfit and its corresponding number. Now, during their morning calls, Mary Clare can say: “You’re going to church today, Mom, so you want to wear the clothes on hanger number 7.” The new system eased Alice’s frustration and helped her get off to a better start in the morning.
At In Care of Dad, we recognize and applaud good ideas like this one from Mary Clare. We foresee numbered hangers in many more closets in the coming months, thanks to another great tip from Team Alice.