Texas Tech University

Undergraduate student Leisha Womble designs a functioning garment for late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

By Ashley Ryan, College of Human Sciences Marketing and Communications

Apparel Design and Manufacturing student contributes to Alzheimer's Dress Behavior Study

Leisha WombleUndergraduate College of Human Sciences student, Leisha Womble, joined Dr. Su-Jeong Hwang Shin, Associate professor's research team to aid in research that was studying the needs of Alzheimer's and dementia patients and their unique garment design needs. Leisha has whole-heartedly tackled her role in research with ingenuity and creativity.

Dr. Shin's research team is comprised of herself, Julie Chang, Ph.D., Doctoral Student David Hancock, and Leisha. Under the super vision of Dr. Shin through the ADM 4000 Independent Study, Leisha worked to design a garment that was suiting to the needs of individuals with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Leisha is a Human Sciences major with concentrations in Apparel Design and Manufacturing (ADM), Addictive Disorders Recovery Studies, and Human Development and Family Studies. Leisha plans to graduate in 2018 before she will decide whether or not to pursue graduate coursework. Leisha is a successful non-traditional student who came back to finish her degree after many wonderful years of raising a family.

Leisha says she became interested in the ADM program at Texas Tech after years of sewing and designing pieces for her family.

"As a young wife and mother, I designed and created most of my own clothing and most of my children's clothing, as well. I have made baby bedding, quilts, table linens, dolls, costumes, wedding apparel, and many other items. Studying Apparel Design and Manufacturing is almost second nature to me."

Leisha says that the ADM program has taught her exciting techniques that have supplemented the knowledge she has gained over the years.

"I am privileged to be a part of the Apparel Design program and to learn applications and techniques from the vast knowledge base of my instructors."

Leisha mentions that she had a close relative who was in need of appropriate garments to more adequately suit his needs as the disease progressed. When Leisha was approached by Dr. Shin to join her research team to help create such a garment, Leisha was all in.

This garment's essential design elements are comprised of factors such as laundering ease and sustainability, high comfort level, ease of manipulation for caregivers, disease-stage appropriate functionality, appealing colors, and a fashionable but structural design to convey dignity for the wearer.

Leisha describes how the clothing can affect a patient's behavior.

"If the patient is dressed in a manner that they associate with the way they dressed for their occupation, they may behave as though they are at work at their former career or job. Similarly, wearing a garment that is typical of nightwear during the daytime hours, may encourage the patient to prepare for bed and they may become sleepy at inappropriate times."

Leisha stresses that designing these types of garments for patients with dementia or Alzheimer's requires an absolute attention to detail in both design and understanding of the disease progression.

"In my opinion, none of the commercially available garments currently contain all of the design elements needed to be a high-functioning option for late-stage Alzheimer's patients. I will use the information gleaned from the construction of the prototype to construct additional garments that may more accurately meet the patients and caregivers needs."

Leisha reflects on her time with Dr. Shin's research team.

"My experience provided me with a creative learning environment to share and experiment with my garment design ideas while under Dr. Shin's expert direction. I was also privileged to work alongside Dr. Julie Chang and Psychology Department doctoral student David Hancock to refine the survey portions of the study concerning the needs of families, caregivers and patients with Alzheimer's and/or dementia."

Outside of the college, Leisha says that she enjoys spending time with her family, working with sewing machines, and walking her golden retriever, Chesney. Leisha is also an active volunteer member in the Lubbock community.

"I love to attend Texas Tech sporting events with my husband and my six children. My husband is proud to tell anyone who will listen, that he has only missed one Texas Tech home football game since enrolling in Texas Tech as a freshman student, many years ago. While my game attendance record is not as stellar as his, I am also very proud to be a Red Raider!"

Leisha says that she plans to continue in this field in order to perfect creating garments that will improve the quality of life for those afflicted by mental or physical ailments.