Overcoming Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Refusal to Change Clothes

Adult Daughter Helping Senior Man To Button Cardigan

Learn tips to help manage challenging dementia behaviors.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia requires empathy, creativity, and patience, being able to step away from your own reasoning and logic and understand why a certain behavior is happening, and then to understand exactly how to successfully manage it. That’s certainly the situation with an older adult who does not want to change his or her clothing, regardless of how unkempt or dirty an outfit may have become.

There are numerous explanations why a senior with Alzheimer’s may insist on wearing the same outfit, including:

  • Memory or judgment problems, such as losing track of time or thinking the clothes were just 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 from the choices involved in selecting an outfit
  • Physical pain and/or fatigue
  • The inability to detect scent and to clearly see stains on clothes

Our dementia care team has some strategies to assist with challenging dementia behaviors:

  1. First of all, do not argue or try 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 older adult is bathing or sleeping, take away the soiled clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as simple as possible, with just a couple of choices that are uncomplicated to put on and take off, and allowing as much time as needed for dressing.
  5. Provide clothing options in solid colors in place of patterns, which may be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Think about any timing issues: is the senior excessively tired and/or aggravated at a specific time of day? If so, 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 respect. For example, is it a question of embarrassment that is driving the necessity for the senior to clothe himself/herself in a certain way?

Remember that wearing a comfortable outfit for an added day may be preferred over the emotional battle involved with forcing a change of clothing. If it truly becomes a problem however, call us! Sometimes, a loved one feels more comfortable being assisted with personal care needs such as dressing and bathing by a skilled in-home caregiver in place of a family member. Midnight Sun Home Care’s care experts are experienced and skilled in assisting individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Anchorage and the surrounding areas to maintain personal hygiene with compassion and kindness; and we are always here to help.

Contact us online or give us a call at (907) 677-7890 for additional helpful tips or to set up an in-home consultation.

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