Overcoming This Challenging Dementia Behavior: Refusal to Change Clothes

Adult Daughter Helping Senior Man To Button Cardigan
Overcome challenging dementia behaviors with these strategies.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia requires empathy, creativity, and patience, the ability to step outside of your own logic and reasoning and understand why a certain behavior is happening, and then to know just how to successfully manage it. That’s certainly the situation with an older adult who refuses to change his or her clothing, in spite of how dirty or unkempt an outfit might have become.

There are several reasons why an individual with Alzheimer’s disease may insist upon wearing only one particular 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 desire to exert control
  • Struggles with the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling stressed by the choices associated with selecting an outfit
  • Physical pain and/or fatigue
  • The inability to identify scent and to clearly see stains on clothes

Our Alzheimer’s care team has some recommendations to help with this challenging dementia behavior:

  1. First off, do not argue or attempt to reason with someone with dementia.
  2. Purchase additional outfits that are exactly the same as the one your loved one insists on wearing.
  3. When the older adult is bathing or asleep, take away the dirty clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as simple as possible, offering only a couple of choices that are simple to put on and take off, and allowing as much time as needed for dressing.
  5. Offer clothing options in solid colors in place of patterns, which could be distracting, confusing, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Think about any timing issues: is the senior extremely tired and/or irritated at a specific time of day? If that’s the case, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when he or she normally feels the most content and calm.
  7. Determine if your own feelings are exacerbating the issue in any way. For instance, could it be a question of embarrassment that’s driving the need for your senior loved one to dress in a particular way?

Understand that wearing a comfy outfit for an added day may be preferred as opposed to the emotional battle involved in forcing a change of clothing. If it truly becomes a problem however, contact us! Sometimes, an older adult feels more comfortable being helped with personal care needs such as bathing and dressing by a professional in-home caregiver instead of a family member. Sage Home Care’s care experts are experienced and skilled in helping individuals diagnosed with dementia maintain personal hygiene with compassion and kindness, and we are always available to help.

Give us a call at 1-800-578-4554 for additional helpful tips or to set up an in-home consultation to learn more about our top-rated senior care in Darien, CT and the surrounding areas.

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