What to Do When a Senior with Dementia Refuses to Change Clothes

What to Do When a Senior with Dementia Refuses to Change Clothes

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia requires creativity, patience, and empathy, being able to step outside of your individual reasoning and logic and understand just why a specific behavior is occurring, and then to learn just how to effectively manage it. That’s certainly the situation with a loved one who refuses to change clothes, regardless of how dirty or unkempt an outfit has become.

There are numerous reasons why an older adult with dementia may insist upon wearing exactly 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 particular piece of clothing
  • A need to maintain control
  • Problems with the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling stressed from 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 dementia care team has some recommendations to help when a senior refuses to change clothes:

  1. Most importantly, don't ever argue or attempt to reason with someone with dementia. 
  2. Purchase extra outfits that are exactly the same as the one your loved one insists on wearing.
  3. When the senior loved one is bathing or sleeping, remove the soiled clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as simple as possible, with only a couple of choices that are simple to put on and take off, and permitting as much time as needed for dressing.
  5. Provide clothing options in solid colors instead of patterns, which can be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Take into account any timing issues: is the senior loved one overly tired and/or agitated at a specific period of the day? If that's the case, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when she or he normally feels the most content and calm.
  7. Determine if your own feelings are exacerbating the problem in any way. As an example, could it be a question of embarrassment that’s driving the necessity for the senior to clothe himself/herself in a particular way? 

Keep in mind that wearing a comfortable outfit for an extra day may be preferred as opposed to the emotional battle involved in forcing a change of clothing. When it truly becomes a concern, however, give us a call! Sometimes, a senior feels more at ease being assisted with personal care needs such as bathing and dressing by a skilled in-home caregiver versus a family member. Amy’s Helping Hands’ care experts are experienced and skilled in helping individuals with Alzheimer's disease maintain personal hygiene with kindness and compassion, and are always here to help. 

Reach out to us at 519.915.4370 for additional helpful suggestions or to arrange an in-home consultation for home care in Windsor-Essex and the surrounding areas.


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