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PTA Blog Talk

Clothes for Patients

Published December 5, 2013 10:09 PM by Jason Marketti

I've worked in many facilities and for both large corporations and small independent businesses. One of the reoccurring problems I've seen is finding adequate clothing for the patients. Family should provide some clothing to the patient but if the facilities don't explain this to the family members, the patient ends up wearing whatever is available.

One patient, a distinguished male veteran, was dressed in green female-size sweat pants that were obviously too short for him and a plaid button-down shirt. This man stormed the beach and survived enemy gunfire at Normandy and someone assisted him with dressing like this? What were the aides thinking?

When I went to the laundry room, I found his clothes and helped him look more presentable when he interacted with other patients and staff. I then went to the director of nursing and asked what could be done about the clothes situation, specifically putting female clothes on male patients. "It is a dignity issue," I said.

I saw heads nodding in agreement about the issue but I didn't see any significant change in the facility's enforcement of a dress code for patients. Some blamed the laundry department for not returning the clothes in a timely fashion, others blamed the nursing aides for their laissez-faire attitude about getting people dressed.

The aides, in their defense, had limited time to get people dressed and would usually grab what's clean in a patient's closet or go to a linen cart to find something for him. In some facilities, the aides would raid closets for clothes to dress another patient. Then there's the issue of having the patient's name written on the waistband of the clothes. If there's no name, the clothing sits in laundry until claimed by family or it is placed in another patient's room, hopefully of the same gender.

If the therapy department has to hunt for appropriate attire for patients to make them more presentable, it interferes with our productivity. If we do nothing about what the patients wear, stripes and plaids go together and we need to accept this. Personally I would rather have my patients look presentable than worry about productivity. When family members show up and the patient is dressed like a rodeo clown, don't you think they will question why their dad is up and working with therapy dressed like that?

Not only is it a dignity issue, but also a professional judgment issue about what's appropriate for a patient to wear when working in the gym with other patients around. Maybe the therapists who allow this to happen should be dressed by the same aides who dress their patients.

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About this Blog

    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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