Overcoming This Challenging Dementia Behavior: Refusal to Change Clothes

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia requires creativity, patience, and empathy, the ability to step outside of your personal reasoning and logic and understand just why a particular behavior is occurring, and then to understand how exactly to successfully manage it. That is certainly the situation with an older adult with a refusal to change clothes, in spite of how unkempt or dirty an outfit may have become.

There are various reasons why an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease may insist on wearing the exact same outfit, including:

  • Judgment or memory problems, such as losing track of time or thinking the clothes were just recently changed
  • The comfort and familiarity of a particular item of clothing
  • A desire to exert control
  • Difficulty with the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling overwhelmed from the choices involved in selecting an outfit
  • Fatigue and/or physical pain
  • The inability to detect scent and to clearly see stains on clothes

Our dementia care team has some strategies to assist:

  1. First of all, do not argue or attempt to reason with someone with Alzheimer’s.
  2. Purchase additional outfits that are identical to the one your senior loved one insists on wearing.
  3. When the senior loved one is bathing or sleeping, take away the dirty clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as easy as possible, with only a couple of choices which are easy to put on and take off, and permitting as much time as is needed for dressing.
  5. Offer clothing options in solid colors in lieu of patterns, which could be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Consider any timing issues: is the senior excessively tired and/or aggravated at a specific period of the day? If that’s the case, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when he or she usually feels the most content and calm.
  7. Determine if your own feelings are exacerbating the problem in any respect. As an example, could it be a matter of embarrassment that’s driving the desire for your senior loved one to clothe himself/herself in a specific way?

Remember that wearing a comfy outfit for an extra day could be preferred as opposed to the emotional battle involved with confronting the refusal to change clothes. When it truly becomes an issue, however, call us! Sometimes, a senior feels more at ease being helped with personal care needs such as dressing and bathing by a professional in-home caregiver[Je6]  in the place of a family member. Seniorcorp, provider of senior home care in Norfolk, VA and the surrounding areas, is experienced in patiently assisting people with dementia to maintain personal hygiene, and we are always here to help.

Reach out to us at 757.640.0557 for additional helpful tips or to arrange an in-home consultation.