Why Some People with Alzheimer’s Refuse to Change Clothing – and How to Help

People with Alzheimer’s
Some people with Alzheimer’s experience difficulties that lead to the refusal to change clothes.

Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other kind of dementia requires empathy, creativity, and patience, the capacity to step outside of your own personal reasoning and logic and realize why a particular behavior is occurring, and then to determine just how to successfully manage it. That’s certainly the case with a family member who refuses to change his/her clothing, no matter how dirty or unkempt an outfit might have become.

There are various reasons why some people 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 certain item of clothing
  • A need to exert control
  • Problems with the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling stressed from 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 Alzheimer’s care team has some suggestions to help:

  1. First, do not ever argue or try to reason with someone with Alzheimer’s.
  2. Purchase extra outfits that are identical to the one the senior insists on wearing.
  3. When the senior is bathing or asleep, 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 easy to put on and take off, and allowing as much time as needed for dressing.
  5. Provide clothing options in solid colors as opposed to patterns, which can be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Take into account any timing issues: is the senior exceedingly tired and/or irritated at a certain 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. Evaluate if your own feelings are exacerbating the problem in any way. For example, is it a question of embarrassment that is driving the desire for the senior to clothe himself/herself in a particular way?

Remember that wearing a comfortable outfit for an added day could be preferred over the emotional battle involved in forcing a change of clothing. When it truly becomes a problem, however, contact us! Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s feel more comfortable being helped with personal care needs such as bathing and dressing by a knowledgeable caregiver versus a family member.

Stay Home Care, leading providers of dementia care in Brentwood, provides caregivers who are skilled and experienced in helping individuals with Alzheimer’s disease maintain personal hygiene with kindness and compassion, and we are always available to help.

Call us at 615-964-7726 for additional helpful tips or to set up an in-home consultation.