Why What I Wear to My ALS Appointments Helps Me Feel Better

Finding the right patient clothing for the doctor is more important than it seems

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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Does it matter what I choose to wear to my ALS medical appointments? I think it does, and my reasons might surprise you. Hopefully, once I explain myself, you’ll be convinced that what you wear will make a difference for you, too.

Busy days, busy me

In my pre-ALS days, I’d fit medical appointments into the middle of my workday. Squeezing in time off to go to a health checkup meant I showed up in whatever outfit I was wearing that particular day. If my day was filled with meetings, then I’d go in office attire. If I happened to be teaching yoga classes, then I’d show up in my yoga togs.

Once in the exam room, I’d have no problems taking off layers of clothing or wriggling out of leggings in order to slip on the obligatory paper gown.

That all changed in the years following my ALS diagnosis.

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I’ve since retired from working, and my calendar is wide open. But nowadays, medical appointments seem to far outnumber my social engagements. And more often than not, an appointment is the big deal for that week. For example, a three-hour visit to the ALS clinic not only takes much planning and consumes most of the day, I even block out the entire next day for my mental and physical recovery.

Dressing for success

I’ve often heard the recommendation to wear loose, comfortable-fitting clothing to appointments — to dress as if you’re going to be on an airplane for five hours. And that’s what I do. No clothing wrestling matches in the exam room for me. I keep it simple.

Except for what I put on my feet.

I have to strap ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) onto both feet. They’re my clunky, love-’em-and-hate-‘em AFOs. Since they extend almost up to my knees, I’ve found wearing a pair of shorts with them works best. Shorts don’t get tangled in the AFOs’ Velcro straps the way long pants or a skirt would.

But exam rooms are notoriously cold, so I also bring along one of my hand-knitted shawls. Not only does the shawl come in handy to protect my bare knees from cold drafts, but it’s also my way of showing the doctor that even though my handwriting is not so good anymore, I’m still a knitting fanatic.

Showing up, for me

Even though I know my doctor and the clinic team won’t judge me for wearing laid-back, casual clothes, I can’t let go of wanting to dress up just a little.

I’ve come to rely on a wellness strategy called “showing up.” It involves a combination of taking care of my appearance no matter how deep a mental funk I happen to be in, and not wanting to be seen as someone who’s relinquished their identity to ALS. I want to be perceived as a person first and a patient second.

“You’re a little dressed up for a day at the ALS clinic,” my husband would comment as we climbed into our van.

“Yup,” I’d reply. “I’m showing up!”

Perhaps you’ve never considered how what you choose to wear to a medical appointment is having any influence on either you or the people around you. If so, I challenge you to give my strategies a try.

Remember, it’s the little things we do for ourselves that help us learn how to live well with ALS.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


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