Bathing & Hygiene Top Tips: Persuading a Senior to Put on Clean Clothes

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The AgingCare.com forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips and suggestions for convincing a senior to change out of their dirty clothes.

Getting Them to Change Clothes

“If your loved one is capable of understanding, let them know the importance of being clean and be honest when they smell. You will be doing them a favor. It is better that you tell them than wait for everyone to start avoiding them or for urinary tract and skin infections to pop up.” –JessieBelle

“What I would do is I would go through Mom’s closet and pick out a new outfit almost every day. I would tell her, ‘I haven’t seen you wear this in a while. Do you think it still fits? Would you try it on and let me know?’ It seemed weird at first telling her the same thing over and over, but she never realized what I was doing and it would get her to change her clothes.” –neveralone

“My mom’s poor eyesight prevented her from really seeing how dirty her clothing got. She also couldn’t deal with the physical aspect of doing her own laundry anymore, so she just hung stuff back up. Dirty clothes can indicate more serious issues if the senior is still living independently. Tactful honesty is the best approach. Say that you’re bringing it up because you love them and don’t want them to go around looking messy and smelling bad.” –Rainmom

“Pour yourself a large beverage at mealtime and ‘accidentally’ knock it over in their direction at the meal. Apologize and quickly shuffle them into the bathroom to clean them up, standing in the tub and whoops! You soak them with the handheld shower head and now everything has to come off. Keep chattering apologies while you dry them off. As long as you appear to be the awkward one, they’ll still think they’re in control.” –pamstegma

“When Mom still lived with me, I didn’t give her a choice. I removed her dirties when she got ready for bed and laid out the next morning’s clothes. I also turned off her TV and hid the remote until she completed her bath.” –Magdalena

“I gently remind my dad that it is time to change his clothes every two days unless there is an urgent need to do so sooner. He has adapted to the routine quite well and rarely resists, but it tires him so much that he spends the rest of the day napping off and on.” –cands1

“While caregiving, I’ve learned to pick my battles. My mom doesn’t get hot and sweaty or do any dirty work, so I let her wear an outfit for two to three days. Because she lives with me, I am monitoring the condition of her clothing on a daily basis. If she needs changing, I do it immediately and put her clothes right into the hamper. I make sure I show Mom the stain so she will know why I’m getting new clothes out. I also provide fresh clothes on each bath day so she ends up wearing a new outfit at least 3 times each week. Early on I would go through her closet while she was in the bathroom or snoozing and get clothes I knew she had worn already to throw them in the laundry. I used the same opportunity to get rid of clothes that didn’t fit or were too far gone.” –JollyJ

“My mom has dementia but lives at home, so it makes washing her clothes easier. She used to take clothes out of the hamper, so I had to get in the habit of putting them directly into the washing machine and starting it. I help her get dressed each morning and take her clothes so she won’t stick them back on.” –moms1daughter

“One thing you might want to try is purchasing similar outfits and marking them somehow so you know which items/sets have already been worn and can remove them for laundering. Similar or identical clothing items may minimize the ‘change’ factor for your loved one, too. I let my mom wear the same clothes for a couple of days, except for underwear, which I change every morning.” –irwinsu

“What I found with my mom was that she really had just too many clothes. This meant she had way too many choices, which required her to think, make decisions and physically go into drawers and closets, etc. This was just to hard for her to do, so she would wear the same things over and over even if they were dirty. Try downsizing or minimizing your loved one’s options.” –igloo572

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