How clothing transforms the patient experience – The experts’ opinion

 In Breast cancer, Clothing, Coping with Chronic illness, Patient Testimonies

We are now told by nurses, doctors, physios and therapists that it is critically important to have the right clothes when hospitalised or undergoing medical treatment to improve our mental and physical health, but many don’t see what real difference it can make…

The best way to establish why it is so important is to ask the experts. Those who are living with chronic illnesses, and fully understand all the problems of spending time in a hospital gown or struggling with their own clothes which are not fit for purpose when connected up to medical devices including chemotherapy lines, feeding tubes and IV lines. So, we asked some of the best chronic illness bloggers out there to tell us their frustrations and test out our INGA Wellbeing patient clothing, giving us their honest and open opinion.

The overall response is probably best summed up by ‘Hospital Princess’ who said, “When poorly, feeling like a presentable human being rather than a character from some sci-fi movie is definitely a mood booster. And the act of dressing independently in the clothes from INGA Wellbeing is downright euphoric!”.  Cheyanne, who writes the Hospital Princess blog, tried out our long-sleeved t-shirt in dusky pink and looked GREAT!

Cheyanne went on, “I should be accustomed to this scene, as I have been dependent on feeding tubes and daily home intravenous infusions for years. Feeling tethered is still frustrating. INGA Wellbeing is a clothing company that seeks to alleviate the annoyance of unruly medical necessities, making it a bit easier to appreciate the life-saving interventions.”

 

Rachel from Rocking 2 Stomas is also far too familiar with the realities of struggling with clothing as a patient.  As she said, “Whenever I have to visit the hospital I always dread the hospital gown. Not only do they open at the back, but they are uncomfortable and as soon as I put it on I feel like I have lost an element of ‘me’. I am no longer ‘Rachel’ but a patient and a number!”

This immediately changed though when Rachel tried out our cross-over top, “As soon as I put the top on a huge smile came to my face and I realised this would be my go-to item every time I go into the hospital. Not only is it extremely comfortable and so soft on the skin but I felt stylish, I didn’t feel ill or exposed and the design has been carefully thought out. Also, you could not see my stoma bags underneath…  I think my favourite aspect is the inward pocket design for example if you have a drain you could feed this through the hole and place it in the pocket of your top and move around easily! Groundbreaking…”

IMPROVING MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH

Rachel felt that the right patient clothing helped to change her whole outlook, “This company and the clothing excites me because I truly believe this will transform my hospital stays. I am not sure if you have seen but there is a huge campaign that has been started in the NHS recently called #EndPJParalysis I believe these items can help with this campaign because you feel smart and they don’t feel like pyjamas which encourages you to get up and move around which is paramount for recovery.”

You can find out more about the clinical reasons it is vital that we all get up, dressed and active during treatment, as mentioned by Rachel, on the #endPJparalysis website – a campaign that strongly supports the INGA Wellbeing collection. The co-founder, Professor Brian Dolan, recently commented that, “Having clothing that is comfortable, addresses clinical requirements of drains, drips etc is what INGA Wellbeing offers and is a great solution that stops patients being a mosaic of detachable clinical conditions and humanises them again.”

 

Regular out-patient appointments can also be hugely challenging when temporarily connected to lines that prevent you dressing or undressing to enable greater comfort or temperature control, such as during regular sessions of chemotherapy or dialysis.  The wonderful Jenni Sheldon, author of Travel to Recovery blog who is undergoing treatment for cancer, tried out our cross-over top during her chemotherapy sessions and found it provided her with improved comfort and independence, which in turn made her feel she could get up and be more active.

“I love the design of these hospital clothes – they have women and men options. Some people feel that it is important to dress well when they are in hospital as if they feel they look nice they will not feel as poorly. TBH I am a comfy PJs sort of girl but after trying this range I can easily be converted.” commented Jenni.

She continued, “It might sound a little strange but I feel that these clothes would make me want to get out of bed more during my hospital stay as they look totally normal. I know during a recent inpatient stay I didn’t want to get out of bed as it was too much hassle for me to get dressed and undressed again as I was in so much pain, but with these they look more like lounge wear than bed wear.”

EASY ACCESS:

In practical terms it was the poppers on the sleeve that Jenni found most useful, “I wore my cross over top to a chemotherapy session and the nurse was also really impressed with the design. The top is quite discreet in the way the clothes have been designed such as the poppers on the sleeve are well hidden. It wasn’t until I put the top on that I appreciated the design as it really is a great top for wearing in hospital. It has poppers on sleeves so you can get easy access to take bloods or for wires from drips etc.”

The ability to dress and undress independently really helped comfort levels, “During chemotherapy I did get hot but that was due to the treatment room being quite stuffy. With the help of my mum we undid the poppers and the button on the shoulder which meant I could then take the top off whist still being connected to my drip which was really good. I could have done the popper myself but I found the button tricky since I only had one arm but it would be easy to ask for help of a nurse if you were in hospital. It was also easy to get back on again with the help of my mum when I then went chilly.”

CONVENIENCE & COMFORT:

For Shireen, author of Endometriosis: My life With You, who is also living with Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia and osteopenia it was the convenience that really helped:

“Having spent 3 weeks in hospital this year, one thing I very quickly got tired of was my clothing getting in the way when I needed injections, blood tests, blood pressure checks or while I was wearing an IV. I found I was having to wear short sleeved t shirts or vests and then I was getting cold, but if I put anything long sleeved on, it simply didn’t fit over the cannula or it just as quickly needed to be removed again. Not only was this annoying for me, but it also held the nurses up while I was trying to remove the clothing so they could get access. It’s not something you really think about until you have to spend a lot of time in hospital…”

Having sampled the INGA Wellbeing long-sleeved t-shirt top, Shireen reported that, “INGA Wellbeing’s clothes are not condition specific. They have taken great care in providing comfort and practical dressing solutions no matter how an illness evolves and what additional medical interventions a patient may require. Their clothing is made with soft and stretchy fabrics that will accommodate changing body shapes and sizes.  I’m really pleased with this top! It’s really good quality, feels lovely on and I’m almost feeling excited to try it out in hospital!… Although not so excited for the hospital part!”

 

STYLE & SUBSTANCE

Hannah Hodgson, the incredible  host of her own YouTube channel, where she shares experiences of living with her health challenges brings the issue to life in a video review of the back-opening dress (go to 4 minutes 10 seconds into this video link if you are particularly looking for content on the dress though the rest of the piece is also very interesting).

Hannah talks about her many experiences of wearing the hospital gown:“We’ve all been there. You end up showing your derriere to everyone on that ward, there’s just no dignity!”

On trialling the INGA Wellbeing gown, however, she felt very differently.  “I feel really secure in it, and I actually really like it as a dress, just to wear…. You’re very accessible…The dignity of wearing this is so much better…. It’s a bit of comfort…. When you’re in hospital that’s when you most need that comfort and that’s when it’s hardest to find.  Just gorgeous, you wouldn’t be able to tell they were medical….”

Hannah felt confident the collection would be of great use to people living with any medical condition, specifically, “Brilliant for anyone with an ileostomy or colostomy.  If you have a tube or are a frequent flyer of the endoscopy unit you will LOVE this. For my tube changes I always end up having to show off more than I want to, whereas with this it’s literally just poppers so I don’t have to take a gown off completely, and feel like I’ve got nothing on. it’s such a good idea I can’t believe I never came across this before!”

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