My mother wears her clothes and puts them back in her closet. She never washes them. How can I get her to wash her clothes?

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My mother wears her clothes and puts them back in the closet dirty. She refuses to let me wash anything other than 1 pair of pajamas and socks that are in the hamper from the entire week....Lots of things are stained and have been worn many times. Her closet is starting to have an odor . She has moderate dementia and is in an assisted living. She is also now frequently refusing to take baths and is becoming a bit nasty with the aids on her floor. I have tried various ways to deal with this such as bringing a dry cleaning bag and telling her that I would take some clothes to the dry cleaners and sneaking some clothes out but she is adament that she wants me to leave the clothes alone because she "doesn't perspire or get dirty anymore" Any suggestions?

Answers 1 to 10 of 26
I sympathize with you. When I tried to tactfully mention anything having to do with "better hygiene" to either of my parents, I met with resistance. It must be a common reaction. I think you need to get creative to get the problem solved. It never works to be pushy, I've noticed. You say your mother is in assisted living. Is there a way you could get a staff person from her facility to assist you with this? Like have the staff person come in and say she is here "to pick up some laundry" or some such thing. Or else if your mother naps for an extended period, maybe you could launder her clothes while she's napping and then place them folded on her dresser afterward. Maybe, just maybe, she'd be happy once they were all washed, dried and folded. Good luck.
My mother does not like to take a shower anymore. We have found that if we encourage her the moment she awakes, she is more likely to comply with the caregiver about showering.
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I can only speak from the perspective of my mom living with me. We went through the same arguments when she moved in and still do seven months later but seldom now. Because I am the 24x7 caregiver, I control the schedule each day and for the week but I am extremely consistent. A consistent schedule is key.

Laundry is done on Monday (by me) and I take all the dirty clothes. 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. I used the same opportunity to get rid of clothes that didn't fit or were to far gone.

We had major battles initially about bathing but with perseverence and using her mother's teaching as the argument, I told Mom she had to bathe once a week. The dementia, however, was an issue because she no longer knew how to bathe without supervision and she would lose time and say she just bathed the day before. It's been a long battle but it goes pretty smoothly these days.

Something that helped, but was a battle in itself, was moving her into Depends and also finding out that she could no longer properly care for her feet. Again, standing firm, I made it through the battles and each day now I care for her feet and change her Depends without a battle. She is not yet incontinent but has some spotting issues so the Depends are a Godsend. In addition, when she does have incontinence problems, we'll already have her in them.

I've learned through all this to pick my battles. She doesn't get hot and sweaty nor does she do any dirty work so I let her wear an outfit for 2 to 3 days. I am monitoring the condition of her clothing on a daily basis when I take care of her feet and change her Depends so if they need changing (for example, food stains), I do it then and put them right into the dirty clothes. I make sure I show Mom the stain so she will know why I'm getting new clothes out. I also get out fresh clothes on each bath day so she ends up wearing a new outfit at least 3 times each week.

All this said, again I am coming from the perspective of being with her 24x7. Maybe others who have dealt closely with their loved ones in facilities can chime in with what worked for them.

I've met many people who assume their "uniforms" are still clean because they don't get out of the house much. Leaving things sitting in the hamper for over a week, however, doesn't make them ready to wear again.

When you feel you're getting mad, check out Alzheimer' for tips on how to handle things out of the ordinary and cope with behavioral changes.

Good luck my friend, and keep us posted.

-- ED
When you tell her she stinks or the clothes stink, and one of them must be washed, she will blame it on the clothes. Then you can suggest she bathe while the clothes are washing just to make sure the odor is taken care of. She will do the bath and the laundry. Remember, old people get cold and do not like baths...keep them very short, not steamy, the Get in Get out rule or the rest of the day you will have a limp person passed out in the chair with no more energy to get up.
Mom has dementia but is at home so it makes washing her clothes easier. She used to take the stuff out of the hamper so i had to put it directly into the washer and start it. I help her get dressed in the morning and if I don't remove the clothes that are dirty she'll stick them back on. I don't debate the issue anymore. It's time for a shower and lead her there and start taking the clothes off and in she goes. She will argue if I ask, but not if we do. Installing a hand held shower made the process much easier.

Good luck

I think that if she has dementia, she won't miss much if you sneak it out of the room, while she sleeps to wash it. Bring it back and slip it back into her closet. Maybe you can also buy an air freshener that does inside of her closet. Napping is the best time to do her laundry.
Perhaps tell her the assisted living home told you YOU have to wash the clothes every second Wednesday (or soemthing like that), or they will do it for you. She might not want other people touching her clothes. Or, does she go to the dining hall for lunch and dinner? Go take them then. Just an idea. Good luck, Stick ups fresheners are also good! But that's not a solution I know. :)
I had a similar situation with my mother. She lives with me though, so I can monitor things better than if she were living in assisted living. One thing you might want to try is purchasing similar outfits and marking them somehow so you know which one she had already had on and can remove that one for laundering. I let my mom wear the same clothes for a couple of days, except for underwear which I change every morning. As far as showers go, I have read that sometimes people with dementia are frightened of bathing, either because of the noise of the water, fear of falling, they are embarrassed, etc. My mom had a similar issue and I purchased a shower chair for her to help bath her. She feels much safer, plus I help her because she doesn't really know what to do to wash herself. If she is embarrassed you might suggest they allow her to cover up while being bathed -- I've even seen outfits you can buy for this. Hope this is helpful to you and Good Luck!
Do the laundry when she is eating or bathing.

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