Descriptions of changes in personal care items such as dressing must take into account an individual's life-long standard. Changes in personal care, therefore, can provide important insights into staging. In mild dementia, there are usually no changes, although sometimes, with attention to detail being impaired, subtle problems can be observed - stains persist, for example, or combinations do not match. With moderate dementia, people need prompting to get dressed; typically, even if it is all put on properly, they will wear the same clothes over and over. Another sign of problems with dressing in moderate dementia is when they choose clothes that are unsuited to the weather. With severe dementia, they need progressive assistance, and will make errors such as putting underwear on outside of their outer clothes, or getting their head stuck in the sleeve of a pullover.
Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University pioneered descriptions of the staging of dementia based on decline in functional capacity. His excellent short description of functional decline in dementia (the Functional Assessment Staging Tool) notes that requiring prompting to change clothes is a hallmark of moderate dementia. My colleagues and I have been impressed by the uncanny characteristicness of this change.