How to Manage the Refusal to Change Clothes Common with Dementia

The need for assistance with choosing clothes and dressing is common among those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia requires creativity, patience, and empathy – the capacity to step outside of your personal reasoning and logic and understand just why a certain behavior is happening, and then learn how to successfully manage it. That’s certainly the situation when a beloved older adult refuses to change his or her clothing, regardless of how unkempt or dirty an outfit might have become.

There are various explanations pertaining to why an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease may insist upon wearing the same outfit, including:

  • Judgment or memory problems, such as losing track of time or thinking the clothes were recently changed
  • The comfort and familiarity of a certain piece of clothing
  • A need to maintain control
  • Obstacles involving the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling stressed from the choices involved with selecting an outfit
  • Physical pain and/or fatigue
  • The inability to identify scent or to clearly see stains on clothes

The Alzheimer’s care team at Home Sweet Home In-Care Home endorses these suggestions to overcome the challenge:

  1. Do not argue or attempt to reason with someone with dementia.
  2. Purchase additional clothing that is identical to the pieces your loved one insists on wearing.
  3. When the older adult is bathing or asleep, remove the soiled clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as simple as possible, with only a few choices that are simple to put on and take off. Allow as much time as necessary for dressing.
  5. Offer clothing options in solid colors instead of patterns which can be distracting, confusing, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Take into consideration any timing issues: is the individual exceedingly tired and/or irritated at a certain period of the day? If so, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when she or he normally feels the most content and calm.
  7. Consider if your own feelings may be exacerbating the situation somewhat. For instance, could it be a matter of embarrassment that is driving the need for your loved one to be dressed in a particular way? Be aware of your needs compared to his/her needs.

Keep in mind that wearing a comfortable outfit for an extra day may be preferred to the alternate emotional battle involved in forcing a change of clothing. If it truly becomes a concern, however, ask for help from the professionals at Home Sweet Home In-Home Care. It is common for an older adult to feel more comfortable accepting help with personal care needs, such as dressing and bathing, by a professional in-home caregiver rather than a family member. Home Sweet Home In-Home Care experts are experienced and skilled in helping individuals with dementia maintain personal hygiene with compassion and kindness, with specialized training in how to overcome the common challenges of dementia care.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care is a leading provider of elder care in Portage, MI and in other Michigan communities. For a full list of the communities we serve, please visit our Locations page.

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