PHARMACIES provide so much of what is needed to help patients in their recovery, but could go further – it is possible to provide customers with significantly greater comfort, confidence, dignity and independence by simply enabling them to dress ‘well’ – as if they were well – in normal, attractive clothes, that are discreetly and practically adapted to accommodate the medical interventions required during treatment or hospitalisation.
Start up patient clothing company INGA Wellbeing has turned personal frustration about the de-humanising effect of the hospital gown and the difficulties of dressing in home clothes for those who are seriously or chronically unwell, to create elegant, comfortable and functional normal-looking day- and nightwear for men and women undergoing medical treatment.
INGA Wellbeing co-founder Nikla Lancksweert tells the story behind why pharmacies must consider the clothes that will revolutionise how their customers dress, see themselves and are seen by others: the clothes that ensure customers are ‘more than a patient; a person’ (www.ingawellbeing.com).
Designed for life
My mother was 52 years old when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent three gruelling years of medical treatment.
During this time she often had to put on a hospital gown or sit in her underwear to be examined or treated by strangers. Wearing the shapeless gown in its institutional print, or dependent on busy staff for dressing and undressing when wearing her own clothes, overwhelmed by unfamiliar corridors and, of course, feeling weak and extremely unwell, it was sad and worrying to see my elegant, capable mother almost visibly shrink: be diminished, become less than herself.
I was incensed. Cancer was threatening to rob me of my mother, but in the meantime, the hospital gown and realities of her medical treatment seemed to be doing a pretty good job of robbing her of everything that made her…well, her!
I could not help cure her, and I could not be with her every moment, or even at her side each time the consultant oncologist did his rounds. But, surely there was a way I could help her survive the hospital experience. I wanted to help her feel like herself and feel equal to her doctors and nurses so that she was confident enough to ask, or even demand, assistance when she needed it. I wanted her to enjoy the company of visitors and to get some fresh air, or at least get a change of scenery by leaving her hospital room and walking in the corridors or visiting the little patients’ sitting room.
Getting her out of the hospital gown and into clothes that looked normal, but that really worked, became my obsession.
And so, INGA Wellbeing was conceived, although it took 10 more years for my idea for truly attractive, comfortable and attractive patient clothing to be born.
But now it is! You can see for yourself at ingawellbeing.com
Thanks to the Herculean efforts of my co-founders Claire – a quick-witted, human-dynamo former PR executive, whose mother Diana experienced clothing challenges during her breast cancer treatment, and Fiona – a talented designer, whose battle with depression left her convinced of the role of clothing in self-image and healing, we developed prototypes of day- and night-wear for men and women, that are receiving rave reviews from patients and medical staff. We are told time and again that pharmacies would be a natural and positive route to market.
Made out of soft, natural fabrics with sufficient stretch to be both comfortable and forgiving, the INGA Well clothing range have discreet openings to the arm, back, chest, sides, stomach, groin and legs. This enables many routine examinations and even treatments, such as chemotherapy or stoma emptying, to be carried out without the patient having to remove any clothing.
The cuff-to-neck poppered sleeves enable most patients to dress and undress themselves easily even when hooked up to IV lines. And, best of all, you would never guess that these were patient clothes –they look great, really great.
Indeed, as we have been introducing nurses and patients to the range and started our hospital trials, nothing has given us more of an energy boost than the moment we reveal to our politely interested, but clearly sceptical audience that we are, in fact, wearing the clothes right now. Their eyes widen, they sit forward, laugh at their own mistaken assumptions and reach out a hand to touch the clothes. Then, more often than not, someone will say “And I was just thinking how lovely that dress was and wondering where you had got it!”
And THAT is the whole point!
I would have loved to have been able to have given my mother INGA Wellbeing clothes to wear as an in- and out-patient. They would have transformed her experience into something more bearable.
Today, as we launch our new website and begin to reach out to patients, the medical institutions that treat them and the friends and families that care for them, Claire, Fiona and I sincerely hope the INGA Wellbeing clothes will help to soften the harsh edges of medical treatment for many suffering from ill health. We also hope that pharmacies with their strong connection and understanding of the patient community will help us to reach more people.
We truly believe that they deserve to be seen, and to see themselves, as ‘more than a patient; a person’. Please do follow our journey on Facebook or Twitter, and if you have any suggestions or stories of your own about clothing frustrations please do share them with us.
To view the clothing, or to get more information on stocking the range, visit the INGA wellbeing website.