Occupational Therapy One Handed Dressing Techniques (Hemiparesis, Stroke, Amputation)

One Handed Dressing Featured

Instructions are provided in step-by-step sequential order for clients to participate in dressing with one hand. Adaptive equipment may be used to aid with dressing, however, these steps can be completed without them first. Your occupational therapist can help with these dressing techniques and offer additional tips. Be patient and practice. Try different methods if one does not seem to work. You can always start over from the beginning if you get stuck. Take a rest break if you become tired.


Donning a T-shirt (Seated)

  1. Position shirt on lap faced down with the bottom of the shirt face you.
  2. Starting from the bottom of the shirt, use your strong arm and start threading the weaker arm through towards the correct sleeve. If you are having difficulty, you may lean forward so that the weaker arm swings out and is free from the torso.
  3. Pull sleeve on the weaker arm up to elbows and rest weaker arm against torso so that sleeve stays in place.
  4. Thread stronger arm through the remaining sleeve.
  5. Gather collar and pull overhead.
  6. Pull down on the bottom of the shirt.
  7. Double-check that the weaker arm is still in the sleeve and that arm is completely through.

This also works with long sleeve shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts.

Donning a T-shirt (Standing)

  • Steps are the same as seated.
  • Widen base of support to improve your standing balance.
  • For safety, you should be comfortable with standing balance when your vision becomes obstructed momentarily when the shirt goes over your head.
  • Not recommended on slippery surfaces, e.g. after a shower.
  • Practice with your OT several times until you get comfortable doing it yourself.

Doffing a T-shirt (Seated or Standing)

  1. Ensure that you are steady and have good sitting or standing balance before proceeding as your vision will momentarily be obstructed.
  2. Reach behind slightly below your neck (between shoulder blades) with your stronger arm.
  3. Close your hand / pinch your fingers together and grab the back of the t-shirt.
  4. Without letting go, pull the back of the t-shirt over your head. The motion is trying to straighten out your elbows above your head. Grab extra parts of the lower parts of the back of the t-shirt if you need to do this in additional steps.
  5. With the t-shirt now over past your head, use your stronger arm to take off the sleeve of the weaker arm.
  6. Wiggle the t-shirt out of the remaining stronger arm.

Donning a Button-Up / Collar / Open Front Shirt / Jacket (Seated)

  1. Position your weaker arm between knees if they are dangling off to the side.
  2. With your stronger arm, find the opposite sleeve.
  3. Lean forward and dangle the arm between your knees.
  4. Thread the sleeve up your weaker arm, as high as your shoulders if possible.
  5. Let go so that you can reach around behind your neck to pull the collar across. A dressing stick may help.
  6. Find the hole of the remaining sleeve and thread your arm across. A mirror may help.
  7. Button shirt one-handed. A button-hook may help.

Doffing a Button-Up / Collar / Open Front Shirt (Seated)

  1. Unbutton shirt one-handed.
  2. Take off the shirt as you would t-shirt.
  • A looser fitting open-front shirt may be easier to take off.
  • Use a dressing stick to help if needed.

Donning a Bra (Seated)

See previous post on how to don a bra one-handed.

  • Consider different types of bras to make your life easier – sports bras, front clasping bras.

Ties and Bowties

  • Consider clip-on type ties and bowties.
  • A helper can help pre-tie a tie in your favorite knot. As you take off the tie, loosen up the collar loop but do not completely undo the knot so that you can wear it easily the next time.

Donning Pants, Sweatpants, PJ’s (Seated) – Step in Method

  1. Orient pants to face the correct direction.
  2. Scrunch pants (like an accordion) so that the pants’ legs allow you to easily thread your legs through.
  3. Position pant holes as close as possible to your weaker leg. (Imagine how the pants would look if you were wearing very loosely fitting pants while standing and they fell to the ground. This is how the pants should be set-up.)
  4. Lift your weaker leg onto the scrunched pant leg hole.
  5. Pull that side up to your knees.
  6. With your stronger leg, step into the remaining pant leg hole.
  7. Reach for the middle of your pants and pull them over your knees of the stronger leg.
  8. Either stand up to pull up or lean side to side to pull over your bottom.
  9. Button up and zip-up fly.

Donning Pants, Sweatpants, PJ’s (Seated) – Crossed-leg Method (Harder)

  1. Start with your weaker leg and cross it onto your stronger knee.
  2. Thread pant leg of correct side over the weaker ankle.
  3. Carefully lower your weaker leg with gravity onto the ground while holding onto the pants.
  4. With your stronger leg step into other pant leg hole.
  5. Either stand up to pull up or lean side to side to pull over your bottom.
  6. Button up and zip-up fly.

Doffing Pants

  1. Unbutton and undo zippers or loosen drawstrings first.
  2. Stand up
  3. Pull pants below your thighs, using gravity to help you if needed by shifting side to side.
  4. With pants now at your ankles, take a seat.
  5. Lift your stronger leg up and use your strong arm to take off pants from this leg first.
  6. Lift your weaker leg onto your stronger knee (crossed-legged) and pull pants off your weaker leg.

Donning a Belt

  1. While seated and with pants on your lap, work belt through each beltloop with one hand.
  2. Don pants.
  3. Stand up.
  4. Work belt through buckle and clasp with one hand, using weaker hand to stabilize as helper hand.

Donning Socks

  1. Starting with your weaker leg, lift and cross leg onto your stronger knee.
  2. Place hand on the outer end of sock opening.
  3. Spread fingers and thumb apart to make a wide opening “O” shape on the sock.
  4. Place sock through toes with the large sock opening made by your fingers spreading apart.
  5. Let go and slowly pull the sock on over your ankles.
  6. Put on another sock for your stronger leg the same way.

Dressing Laying Down

  • Pants, socks, shoes can be donned laying down.
  • Start with your weaker leg each time and cross over your stronger knee (bringing the knee to chest).
  • Thread pant leg through weaker leg – no higher than your knee at this point.
  • While holding onto pants, thread stronger leg through the remaining leg.
  • Turn side to side to pull pants over your bottom.
  • Lie on your back to put on socks and shoes (see above).
  • Reverse these steps to doff lower body clothing and footwear.

Donning AFO & Shoes (Seated) – AFO already Inside Shoe

  1. Sit so that you can reach your feet easily or use a footstool.
  2. Place AFO inside the shoe (leave it this way every time).
  3. Loosen all shoelaces and pull shoe tongue up/forward to create a large opening.
  4. Cross your weaker leg onto your stronger knee so that your weaker foot is suspended in the air and not resting on the ground.
  5. Holding either part of the AFO or the bottom of the shoe, angle AFO & shoe towards your toes.
  6. Slowly lower leg and AFO and shoe onto the ground.
  7. Adjust your weaker leg to align with AFO and shoe.
  8. Scoot forward to bear weight through your foot and step into AFO and shoe.
  9. Secure any velcros (ankle and shin)
  10. Tie laces or drawstring.
  11. Consider learning one-handed shoe-tying technique.

Donning AFO & Shoes (Seated) – AFO First Method

  1. Sit so that you can reach your feet easily or use a footstool.
  2. Loosen shoelaces and tongue.
  3. Align AFO close to the weaker leg.
  4. Lift weaker leg onto AFO base, aligning it with ankle portion.
  5. Tighten ankle strap (if present).
  6. Tighten shin strap (if present). Step 6 may be easier to do first before step 5.
  7. Lift weaker foot with AFO already on onto shoe.
  8. Scoot forward to facilitate stepping in and weight-bearing into the shoe.
  9. Tie laces or drawstring.
  10. Consider learning a one-handed shoe-tying technique.

Donning a Mask (for Infection Prevention)

  1. Orient mask right-side-up and make sure it is not inside-out.
  2. Hold one end of the earloop and place on the opposite side’s ear. Be careful not to knock off any hearing aides.
  3. Let the mask dangle off the ear momentarily.
  4. Reach for remaining earloop.
  5. Carefully pull the mask across and over both nose and mouth towards your other ear.
  6. Adjust mask fit to ensure nose piece (if present) is snug and that mask covers lower chin.

Additional Tips

  • Practice makes perfect.
  • Allow extra time to dress/undress.
  • Reduce effort and conserve energy when putting on underwear and pants by pulling them up together when you stand.
  • Dry off completely after a shower before putting on clothes.
  • Use good lighting, reduce glare.
  • Mirrors may help.
  • Reacher/grabbers can make your life easier.
  • Consider relocating laundry hampers close by to reduce unnecessary mobility.
  • Step stools may also help.
  • Looser fitting clothing is easier to put on and take off.
  • Lint roll clothing before putting on.
  • Steamers (with clothing hanging) are easier than irons for removing wrinkles.
  • Perform skin checks (bottom of feet), redness, etc. after taking off AFO and footwear.
  • Clip toenails to reduce snagging of socks and shoes.
Jeff is a licensed occupational therapist and lead content creator for OT Dude. He covers all things occupational therapy as well as other topics including healthcare, wellness, mental health, technology, science, sociology, and philosophy. Buy me a Coffee on Venmo.