Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia requires empathy, creativity and patience, the ability to step away from your own reasoning and logic and understand why a particular behavior is happening, and then to figure out the best way to successfully manage it. That is certainly the situation with a loved one who will not change his/her clothing, regardless of how unkempt or dirty an outfit has become.
There are several explanations for why an older adult with dementia may insist upon 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 specific piece of clothing
- A desire to maintain control
- Difficulty with the task of changing clothes
- Feeling stressed from the choices involved with selecting an outfit
- Physical pain and/or fatigue
- The inability to identify scent or even to clearly see stains on clothes
Our dementia care team has some recommendations to assist:
- Most importantly, do not ever argue or attempt to reason with someone with dementia.
- Purchase additional clothing that is the same as the clothing the senior insists on wearing.
- When the senior is bathing or sleeping, remove the soiled clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
- Make getting dressed as easy as possible, with just a couple of choices that are very easy to put on and take off, and allow for as much time as is needed for dressing.
- Provide clothing options in solid colors as opposed to patterns, which could be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
- Take into account any timing issues: is the senior excessively tired and/or annoyed 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.
- Evaluate if your own feelings are exacerbating the problem in any way. For instance, could it be a matter of embarrassment that’s driving the necessity for your loved one to clothe himself/herself in a particular way?
Remember that wearing a comfortable outfit for an extra day might be preferred over the emotional battle involved with forcing a change of clothing. When it truly becomes a problem however, give us a call! Sometimes, a senior 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. CareWorks Health Services, providers of in-home care in the Huntington Beach area, offers skilled and experienced professionals for assisting individuals with dementia to maintain personal hygiene with kindness and compassion, and we are always available to help.