October 15, 2020
The many challenges of caring for someone with dementia require creativity, patience, and empathy, being able to step outside of your personal logic and reasoning and realize why a certain behavior is happening, and then to learn how to effectively manage it. That is certainly the situation with a senior who does not want to change his/her clothing, in spite of how unkempt or dirty an outfit has become.
There are many explanations for why someone with Alzheimer’s may insist on wearing the 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 specific item of clothing
- A desire to exert control
- Struggles with the task of changing clothes
- Feeling overwhelmed from the choices related to selecting an outfit
- Fatigue and/or physical pain
- The inability to detect scent and to clearly see stains on clothes
Our Alzheimer’s care team has some recommendations to help:
- First, do not argue or try to reason with someone with dementia.
- Purchase additional clothing that is identical to the outfit your loved one insists on wearing.
- When the senior is bathing or asleep, remove the dirty clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
- Make getting dressed as simple as possible, with just a couple of choices that are simple to put on and take off, and allowing as much time as needed for dressing.
- Offer clothing options in solid colors instead of patterns, which could be distracting, confusing, or visually overstimulating.
- Take into consideration any timing issues: is the senior overly tired and/or agitated at a certain time of day? If so, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when she or he typically feels the most content and calm.
- Determine if your own feelings are exacerbating the issue in any respect. For instance, is it a question of embarrassment that is driving the need for your senior loved one to clothe himself/herself in a specific way?
Keep in mind that wearing a comfortable outfit for an added day may be preferred as opposed to the emotional battle involved with forcing a change of clothing. If it truly becomes an issue, however, call us! Sometimes, a loved one feels more at ease being helped with personal care needs such as bathing and dressing by a professional in-home caregiver rather than a family member. Continuum’s care experts are skilled and experienced in helping those with Alzheimer’s maintain personal hygiene with compassion and kindness, and are always here to help.