This is just one example of an area that can cause conflicts when caring for someone with more advanced dementia. Here are some tips to try, taken from an American ‘dailycarers’ website.
1. Avoid using logic and reason to convince them
Avoid using logic or criticism, like saying “Dad, you’ve been wearing the same clothes all week and they’re really dirty and smelly!” Hearing that would put anyone on the defensive. Plus, the logic and reason is likely to confuse someone with dementia – making them even more sensitive.
Because of the damage that dementia has caused in their brain, they’ll insist on believing their own thoughts and memory over yours, no matter what the facts are.
2. Get clever or sneaky
Wait for them to fall asleep and then remove dirty clothes from their room and replace with fresh clothes.
Buy identical replacement outfits (same color and style) so you can replace them without your older adult noticing (if that’s an issue) and so you can wash one set while the other is being worn.
If they sleep in the same clothes they wear during the day, your only option may be to quietly replace with fresh clothes while they’re bathing.
3. Make dressing easier
Clear out the closet so there are fewer options and less decisions to make. And if you make sure that everything already matches, that makes dressing even easier.
Choose clothing in favourite solid colours instead of potentially distracting or confusing patterns.
Remove clothing that isn’t appropriate for the season.
Choose clothes that are easy to put on and take off – consider adaptive clothing with specialized fasteners
If you lay out their clothing, do it in the same order every day.
Give them plenty of time to dress themselves so they don’t feel rushed or get flustered
4. Gain perspective on the situation
Ask yourself if you’re bothered by their choice of clothing because you don’t like it or if there’s actual soiling or odor that’s causing a problem.
Let go of embarrassment if you think an outfit isn’t appropriate, but your older adult loves it (assuming it’s clean and weather-appropriate). For example, your formerly conservative mom now only wants to wear sweatshirts with a picture of a cartoon character rather than a proper button-up cardigan. The priority is for her to be clean, comfortable, and happy.
Ask yourself if you’re more concerned about following current societal norms of changing and bathing daily rather than what’s needed to maintain health.