Why I Am Quitting Nursing To Design Disability Clothing

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23rd December 2011, 07:03pm - Views: 2507
Changing our clothes is something we all do each day without giving it much thought slip the clothes on, take the clothes off easy, right? What if you suffered a stroke and lost the use of an arm, developed an illness that took the use of your legs, or a car accident left you with a spinal cord injury and you couldn't move at all, how would you change your clothing? Not so easy right!

As a Registered Nurse I worked in many different areas across Australia and the UK, but one factor was the same regardless of geography or age - anyone who had suffered an injury, illness, or disease that reduced their ability to move found it difficult if not impossible to get dressed or undressed without help.

Most people need a carer to assist them and typically they find it a painful, uncomfortable, humiliating, and distressing experience. Just to exacerbate this situation, imagine a person with dementia who cannot understand, and you have the perfect recipe for a regular combative experience that's distressing for all involved!

If you suddenly find yourself in the position where you spend your life sitting down permanently through loss of mobility there is another factor that many people fail to consider clothing is typically styled for the upright position for people who can still mobilise.

Ever tried sitting for several hours in a pair of trousers or jeans? I can assure you its not very comfortable!
The back waist rides down, the groin gets uncomfortable, and you can find yourself standing up regularly to remove the dreaded wedgy, but what if you can't stand up or have lost the use of your arms?

Some might argue if you are paralysed you wouldn't feel the wedgy or tightness, and this may be the case, but any tightness that continues unchecked will likely end up as a pressure sore due to circulation being cut off for long periods, and a wedgy left unchecked for many hours can cause irritation, pressure sores, or may even break the skin, with the individual oblivious to the damage occurring due to loss of feeling.

There is a reason we stand up to correct any discomfort in our clothing; discomfort is our body's way of telling us there is a problem which compels us to move and fix the problem to avoid damage to the said area.

How about clothing labels that scratch and irritate the back of the neck? I have often torn or cut them off because they can drive me crazy, but what if you couldn't remove it and you were stuck with that awful scratchy prickly feeling at the back of your neck all day, or were unable to communicate what was wrong? Well, you would just have to put up with the discomfort all day (or night) long.

When you really think about it there are so many functional needs required in clothing that are just not available, here are a few examples to consider:

You develop arthritis or Parkinsons disease - how do you do up buttons or zippers on shirts or pants?

You have a stroke and cannot lift your arms or move your shoulders - how do you get a t-shirt over your head?

You can weight bear with the help of hand rails to get out of your wheelchair and slide over to the toilet - how do you get your pants and underwear down then back up again whilst holding on to the rails to slide across?

You suffer incontinence and frequent urgency so when you have to go you really have to go. Getting zippers and buttons down in a hurry can be difficult and may result in "accidents" - how inclined would you be to go out socially or would you just opt for elastic waisted pants to make it easier and to hell with looking good?

Your gorgeous gran develops dementia and repeatedly removes her clothing in public - how do you keep clothing on her to maintain her dignity whilst not dressing her in embarrassing outfits that mimic "baby all in ones"?

There are people of all ages across Australia that struggle every day with clothing and this number will continue to grow with the ageing population, so I decided to do something about it. With twenty one years of nursing behind me I now use that experience and knowledge to design and manufacture clothing for people who have physical limitations and need attractive functional clothing. After establishing the company Errine Pty Ltd I released the first range Errine Adaptive Clothing which is designed more for older Australians.

This is not a new concept, with countries such as Canada, the USA, Europe, and the UK all having "disability clothing" freely available for many decades, but it is still relatively new in Australia.

As people become aware and word spreads and I get many calls for a multitude of needs, and for a wide range of age groups. Many people who call me are literally at the end of their tether and desperately need a solution to a daily problem.

There are so many needs it is a challenge to know where to start, the demand grows and grows. With this massive need for specialist functional clothing across Australia it is my goal is to continue to grow the company and expand on the range of products.

My mission is to make life a little easier for people with limited physical ability, and their carers, by restoring dignity, comfort, and self respect to their lives, which is a lot like nursing really!
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