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Caregiver Tips: How to Get Someone with Dementia to Change Clothes

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

an older lady with dementia and her carer

Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's often involves overcoming daily challenges, such as their refusal to change clothes.

Understanding the underlying causes of someone's resistance to changing clothes is crucial for effective caregiving.

This insight allows for tailored approaches and helps caregivers understand that their loved one isn't intentionally causing these challenges.

Why Some Dementia Patients Don't Want to Change Their Clothes

Memory and Judgment

Forgetting the Need to Change: Those with dementia may forget the importance of changing clothes regularly. This impaired memory can lead to wearing soiled clothing for extended periods.

Believing They Have Already Changed: Memory lapses may make them think they've changed clothes recently, even when they haven't.

Confusion Between Dressing and Undressing: Dementia can blur the lines between dressing and undressing, adding to the struggles of daily tasks like changing clothes.

Difficulty in Tracking Time: Time management becomes a challenge for dementia patients, making it hard for them to know when to change into fresh clothes.

Diminished Senses

Lack of Olfactory Awareness: Olfactory awareness is the ability to perceive and identify different smells. It is an important aspect of human cognition and emotion, as well as a potential indicator of neurological disorders such as dementia.

Reduced senses may prevent them from detecting foul odors from soiled clothing.

Failure to Spot Stains or Dirt: Impaired visual and tactile senses can make it difficult to recognise when clothes are dirty or stained.

Recognition and Comfort

Familiarity with Clothing: Dementia patients often find comfort in the routine and familiarity of wearing the same clothes.

Preference for Comfortable Clothes: The need for comfort and security may cause them to opt for familiar clothing rather than changing.

Complexity of Dressing

Overwhelmed by Choices: The multi-step process of dressing can become overwhelming, leading to the need for simpler options.

Inappropriate Garment Selection: Impaired judgment can result in the selection of unsuitable clothes for different occasions.

Physical Challenges

Motor Skill Decline: Physical challenges like difficulty with zippers and buttons can make changing clothes a daunting task.

Limited Mobility: Reduced mobility can physically hinder the process of changing clothes, causing further resistance.

Need for Control

Insistence on Independence: Even with impaired judgment, the need for control can make dementia patients resist help in dressing.

Accessibility and Underlying Health Issues

Trouble Finding Clean Clothes: Visual impairments can make it hard to locate clean clothes.

Exacerbated by Other Health Conditions: Issues like urinary tract infections or depression can further discourage dressing efforts.

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How to Help Someone with Dementia Change Clothes

Whether it be in a facility or a home when caring for a client or loved one with dementia, helping them dress can be a daily challenge.

Understanding and addressing their reluctance to dress is a key step in providing compassionate care and ensuring their acceptance of dressing and well-being.

Set a Routine:

  • Establish a daily dressing routine at the same time: Provides predictability and reduces anxiety.

  • Clearly communicate the steps in the routine: Reinforcing consistency and reducing confusion.

Choose Comfortable Clothing:

  • Prioritise clothing made from soft, comfortable materials: Prevent discomfort or irritation.

  • Opt for garments with simple closures like Velcro, snaps, or elastic waistbands: Makes dressing easier.

Provide Gentle Assistance:

  • Be patient and understanding when assisting with dressing: Offer reassurance and maintain a calm demeanor.

  • Break down the dressing process into manageable steps: Ensure the patient feels supported without rushing.

Offer Choices:

  • Present two or three clothing options: Allows the patient to select what they want to wear, promoting autonomy.

Remove Distractions:

  • Ensure the dressing area is well-lit and clutter-free: Minimise confusion and anxiety.

  • Create a calm, peaceful environment: Reduces sensory overload.

Use Visual Cues:

  • Lay out clothing in a specific order or use visual aids like pictures or labels: Guides the patient through the dressing process.

Address Sensory Issues:

  • Choose clothing with soft textures, seamless seams, and simple designs: Avoid sensory discomfort.

  • Avoid clothing with tags, labels, or tight elastics: Prevent irritation.

Maintain Patience:

  • Understand that dementia patients may take longer to dress: Avoid showing frustration or impatience.

Celebrate Small Wins:

  • Acknowledge and praise the patient's efforts and cooperation: Boosts their confidence and motivation.

Seek Professional Help:

  • Consult with healthcare professionals or dementia specialists: Get personalised strategies and advice.

  • They can offer guidance on managing specific challenges related to the patient's condition and suggest adaptive clothing if needed.

Remember that each person with dementia is unique, so it may take time to determine which strategies work best for them.


Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only. We are not medical professionals and the information should not be considered as professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for medical advice and treatment.

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