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

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.

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