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How to Help Someone with Dementia Who Refuses to Change Clothes

Adult Daughter Helping Senior Man To Button CardiganBeing a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia requires creativity, patience, and empathy, the ability to step away from your individual reasoning and logic and realize why a certain behavior is occurring, and then to determine how exactly to effectively manage it. That’s certainly the situation with a family member who will not change his or her clothing, regardless of how unkempt or dirty an outfit has become.

There are lots of explanations why a senior with Alzheimer’s disease may insist on wearing the same outfit, including:

  • Memory or judgment problems, such as losing track of time or thinking the clothes were just recently changed
  • The comfort and familiarity of a certain piece of clothing
  • A desire to exert control
  • Problems with the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling stressed by the choices involved with selecting an outfit
  • Fatigue and/or physical pain
  • The inability to detect scent or to clearly see stains on clothes

Our dementia care team has some recommendations for how to help someone with dementia experiencing these challenges:

  1. First of all, do not ever argue or attempt to reason with someone with dementia.
  2. Purchase additional outfits that are the same as the one your loved one insists on wearing.
  3. When the senior is bathing or asleep, take away the soiled clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as simple as possible, using only a couple of choices that are uncomplicated to put on and take off, and allowing as much time as needed for dressing.
  5. Offer clothing options in solid colors rather than patterns, which could be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Take into consideration any timing issues: is the senior loved one extremely tired and/or upset at a certain period of the day? If so, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when he or she normally feels the most calm and content.
  7. Determine if your own feelings are exacerbating the matter in any respect. For example, is it a matter of embarrassment that’s driving the desire for the senior to dress in a specific way?

Remember that wearing a comfy outfit for an extra day might be preferred over the emotional battle involved in forcing a change of clothing. When it truly becomes a problem, however, call us! Sometimes, an older adult feels more at ease being assisted with personal care needs such as dressing and bathing by a skilled in-home caregiver in place of a family member. Generations at Home’s dementia care experts are skilled and experienced in assisting people who have Alzheimer’s maintain personal hygiene with compassion and kindness, and they are always here to help.

Give us a call at 727-940-3414 for additional helpful tips or to schedule an in-home consultation.