Help for One of the Top Dementia Challenges: Refusal to Change Clothes

by JFS Care
caregiver helping senior with dementia challenges
Dementia challenges such as refusing to change clothing are common.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia requires creativity, patience, and empathy, the ability to step outside of your own reasoning and logic and understand why particular dementia challenges are occurring, and then to know how to effectively manage them. That’s certainly the case with a senior who refuses to change his or her clothing, regardless of how dirty or unkempt an outfit may have become.

There are several reasons why someone with dementia may insist on wearing the same outfit, including:

  • Memory or judgment problems, such as losing track of time or thinking the clothes were recently changed
  • The comfort and familiarity of a particular piece of clothing
  • A need to exert control
  • Difficulty with the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the choices involved in selecting an outfit
  • Physical pain and/or fatigue
  • The inability to detect scent or to clearly see stains on clothes

Our dementia care team has some suggestions to help:

  1. First and foremost, never argue or try to reason with someone with dementia.
  2. Purchase additional outfits that are identical to the one the senior insists on wearing.
  3. When the senior is bathing or sleeping, remove the dirty clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as simple as possible, with just a few choices that are easy to put on and take off, and allowing as much time as needed for dressing.
  5. Provide clothing options in solid colors rather than patterns, which can be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Consider any timing issues: Is the senior overly tired and/or irritated at a particular time of day? If so, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when he or she typically feels the most calm and content.
  7. Determine if your own feelings are exacerbating the issue in any way. For instance, is it a matter of embarrassment that’s driving the need for the senior to dress in a certain way?

Bear in mind that wearing a comfortable outfit for an extra day may be preferred over the emotional battle involved in forcing a change of clothing. When it truly becomes a problem however, give us a call! Sometimes, a senior feels more comfortable being assisted with personal care needs such as bathing and dressing by a professional in-home caregiver rather than a family member. JFS Care’s care experts are skilled and experienced in helping those with dementia maintain personal hygiene with compassion and kindness, and are always available to help.

Contact the preferred Santa Monica home care agency, JFS Care, at (213) 383-2273 for additional helpful tips for dementia challenges, or to arrange for an in-home consultation, and visit our Service Area page to see a full listing of the areas we serve.