Limon Attire® provides beautiful garments to help maintain the dignity, identity and individuality of those living with dementia whilst also removing some of the stress from their carers’ lives.
and it affects how people treat us. It helps keep a sense of identity. It is important for the carer as well as the one who is being cared for that they are dressed properly. Whilst most of us have a complete package by which we are judged such as speech, use of language, dress, demeanour, facial expression and body language, those in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia have had some of these faculties taken away, leading to them being judged, and consequently treated, primarily on their appearance. Put anyone in ‘bibs and nappies’, use these names, and very swiftly the person disappears!
It also matters from their point of view as it helps retain their sense of identity and individuality. Professor Julia Twigg of Kent University found in her studies that “dress remained significant for people with dementia, continuing to underwrite identity” (Twigg 2014) 2 Quite late on our Mum was shown her finished hair do in a mirror, she peered at herself and then declared, ‘Oh I look quite normal.’ We made sure we always had a mirror on hand after that.
Like many great ideas, Limon Attire was born out of adversity. Our mother developed dementia in her old age and, for her final few years, my sister and I were her main carers whilst she was living in my sister’s home.
Mum was a stylish lady who always took pride in her appearance so we ensured that we always did her hair as she used to and was dressed as she would like to be dressed.
When it came to looking for garments that were helpful in looking after someone with dementia we found that although there was lots of great equipment available no-one really addressed the question of appearance and how it affects dignity, so we designed and made things specifically for mum that we now feel would benefit others in the same situation. The priority was always that Mum retained her dignity. Everything has been designed with the wearer in mind and, at the same time, to make life a little less stressed for the carer. We have concentrated on ‘attractive functionality’ and our garments are ‘Made in England’.
Here are the stories of some of the garments we designed.
The Story of the Limon Dining drApron®
As the dementia progressed Mum developed difficulties eating with dignity. Serviettes were of no use as they didn’t stay on easily or provide sufficient protection. The only things on the market were very ugly adult bibs or clothing protectors, often in plastic and always in awful colours. No, we had to come up with a better solution as we were not having our mother sitting in these awful things and not looking or feeling like Mum. She had often worn a kitchen apron so we tried those – and indeed she was perfectly happy in these, there was no stigma and it helped others relate to her as herself.
One day whilst Mum was wearing her apron with cat designs on, we observed her carefully inspecting the black cats on her apron, tracing round them and touching them - they were obviously making her think and they were amusing her. Then we had a light bulb moment! The design needed to face her, so she always had something to look at and think about.
Professor Julia Twigg (Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University) describes this as ‘the environment closest in’ (Twigg 2010) and it was obviously an important environment for our Mother.
As we were making them anyway, we decided to really design them for our Mother's needs and came up with a lovely garment we named the Dining drApron®. Consequently, not only did we make them with the design facing upwards for her to look at, we made them with no ties - they just got in the way, were unnecessary and were particularly irritating in the wash.
We cut them so they fitted neatly round the neck - no more uncomfortable folds from aprons that we had needed to pull up to the neck. Double thickness helped with absorbency, as eating could become a bit messy, and later we added a towelling layer. We had just one fastening around the back neck which we then further developed so that it was at the side neck. This side fastening was much easier, both for us to use and, for Mum as she did not have to lean forward for it to be fastened. This also proved a lot easier for Mum once she was spending more time sitting up in bed.
The fastening has also had a lot of thought. We started off with velcro-type hook and loop fastening for Mum's drAprons® but we were not always careful enough to fasten it before washing which meant it caught other fibres in it which reduced its effectiveness. We investigated and tried many other fastenings. Press studs were more difficult to fasten and potentially could be a problem if the carer was to press the fastener too hard. Large hooks and eyes were quite difficult to fasten and undo. We also tried magnetic fasteners, which are so simple and had many advantages but we were concerned that they were not holding the drApron® in place well enough. So, after much trialling and thought we returned to the trusty hook and loop fastening and took care to always fasten in together before washing.
The Dining drApron® is a beautiful garment that is so much more than an apron, it can be worn over a nightdress and our merino sleeves and the wearer looks fully dressed and dignified. It is a lovely garment just to sit in as well as dine in.
The Story of the NeverNaked™ Shower and Drying Draprons®
One of the most difficult times when caring for someone living with dementia is whilst helping them to shower/bathe. They must feel vulnerable at the best of times but even more so without their clothes. This can cause great distress, agitation and struggling.
Professor Julia Twigg, in her book 'Bathing - the Body and Community Care', talks about there being an unequal power dynamic during assisted bathing - "Being naked in front of someone who is not contains a powerful dynamic of domination and vulnerability, and is often used in situations of interrogations and torture as a means of subjugating the individual." Imagine also having dementia with all the confusion and vulnerability that goes with it, not recognising the person assisting you and not being able to reason it out.
We tried all sorts of things to maintain Mum's dignity and reduce her agitation – putting towels round her shoulders and over her knees, but of course she had to hang on to them and it made showering quite difficult and Mum could still become quite agitated.
One day our other sister said, ‘Mum needs one of those things that nuns bathe in’. Well, we weren’t exactly sure what they were or what they looked like but we used our imagination and came up with the NeverNaked™ Shower Drapron®. It was like magic. Showering time was transformed from a stressful and agitated time to a much calmer process where all concerned were a lot more comfortable. Mum felt that she was dressed and could relax when being helped to shower.
The NeverNaked™ Shower Drapron® is a very simple garment that just drapes over the person in your care and covers everything that it needs to cover whilst being light enough for water to go through and easy to lift to wash under. It comes down to the knees at the front and part way down the back. Mum was seated during her showers.
The NeverNaked™ Shower Drapron® fastens easily with one magnetic fastening at the back neck. These are so simple – just place the two parts close together and they fasten themselves – no pressure required. We have made sure that the metal parts are not near the skin in case of any metal allergy and that they wash as well as the Drapron®.
We believe the magnet is far enough away from where a pacemaker would be fitted not to interfere with its working but if you or the person in your care have a pacemaker fitted and you have doubts about the magnet please consult your doctor before it is worn.
After showering we needed an easy way to dry Mum too so we then added the NeverNaked™ Drying Drapron® – this gives a dignified yet quick and easy way to dry the person in your care after bathing or showering. You simply slip the NeverNaked™ Drying Drapron® over their shoulders and fasten it with the easy fasten magnet, open the fastener of the NeverNaked™ Shower Drapron® and slip it out from underneath with no need to expose any of their body. Dignity is maintained. Watch the video of how it works here
Never leave the person in your care sitting around in a wet Shower Drapron® – they will get cold.
More of the range to come
As time went on we designed various other pieces of clothing and accessories that would help Mum look good and maintain her dignity whilst making life easier for us as carers as well. You will find some of them on the website already but there are others still to come, including nightwear, so watch this space.
Who are we?
Limon Attire founder, Barbara Lewis had been in the fashion buying industry for over 18 years in various roles, including Fashion Buyer, Product Developer and Fashion Buying Manager. She gave up her Buying Manager’s job and came back to England from New Zealand to help her sister, Catherine, care for their mother. She knows how hard it can be, caring for someone with dementia. Barbara has formed Limon Attire because she wants to help those living with dementia and all those who are caring for someone with dementia, particularly at home.
Sadly, their mother died in 2014 and that is when Barbara put her efforts into getting these beautiful designs out to others who can benefit from them. Catherine is helping too – she is currently in charge of production. They both hope their mother would be proud of what they have done so far – so many of the skills they have used in creating the Limon Attire label, for example seamstress skills, were passed on by their mother. The company has been named using their Mother’s maiden name - hopefully a fitting tribute to an exceptional woman.
How else can we help?
As time goes on we would like to share some of our experiences as carers with others, so check our blog for useful tips and sign up to our regular newsletter for updates. We will also be adding to our range, with garments based on designs we made for our mother, so keep in touch,
We would also love to have feedback from people who use our garments so please contact us whether the feedback is positive or not. We want to ensure that we are meeting your needs.
We exhibited at the London 2016 Alzheimer’s Show and the Manchester Alzheimer's show in 2017 and received great feedback from occupational therapists, carers, charities and many others.
Barbara is also available to present talks on dementia and caring for our mother. She has given talks to groups of the Catholic Women's League, the Women's Institute and Dementia Support groups. Talks can be tailored to your needs. She is also currently the co-Chair of the Tameside and Glossop Dementia Action Alliance and a Dementia Champion and is very happy to come and deliver the Dementia Friends one hour information session. See more information about this here.
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Limon Attire Ltd is registered in England & Wales number 9625260 Registered Office – 4, The Churches, Ashton-u-Lyne, Lancs. OL6 6TJ 07411 575237 Office hours only please
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