Is putting on dirty clothes typical Alzheimer's behavior, or is it a learned behavior?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

Hello, I am caring for a friend of mine who has early onset Alzhiemer's She comes from an abusive family her husband and children have been abusing her before she started showing signs of Alhiemer's. Its my understanding that no one would wash her clothes or tell her to shower. My Question is... Her putting back the dirty clothes on top of her clean clothes is this what patients with Alzhimer's do or would this be something she learned over the years as she was getting sick and being abused.

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

Although your friend suffered serious neglect in the past, her current dressing-routines are most likely caused by her Alzheimer's.

People with Alzheimer's are often confused about their clothes. They have a hard time gauging appropriate dress for the time of day or the seasons: A nightie for a dinner party, a fur coat to go to the beach, etc.

Here are some simple solutions: As soon as she has undressed, remove her dirty clothes, so she simply has no option to put them on again. Get her involved in choices of what to wear. You can pull out her outfit ahead of time with two tops for her to consider. Limit the choice to only two items "“ any more easily can confuse and overwhelm her. It's important that everyone involved in your friend's caregiving follows the same routines.

No matter what she chooses, compliment her on her excellent taste.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Mom was forgetting to change her undergarments and was wearing the same clothes, things she liked. I now put out fresh undergarments every night along with her PJ's and collect all of her dirty clothes each night. I am stressed less by knowing she has clean clothes on. Picking out clothes the night before does not always help, she often changes her mind but at least their clean!