Giving Care: Senior & Disabled Caregiver Resource Blog

Repeat-Outfit Offender: When seniors wear the same clothes every day

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As people age, nutritional deficiencies, mental illnesses such as dementia, and other causes can affect the brain and its thinking processes. It’s no surprise that strange behavior often ensues, including seniors wearing certain garments or the entirety of an outfit for several days in a row. As a caregiver, what can you do to cope with elderly patients or family members who dress in the same clothes every day?

What’s going on in their heads?

Like most eldercare obstacles, the first step is to attempt to understand the reasons behind their actions. If you think it’s beneficial to just ask, do so in a non-confrontational way. For example, “I couldn’t help but notice how often you’ve been wearing that shirt! Why is it your favorite?” is much more sensible and open-ended language than “You’ve been wearing that outfit for days! Don’t you realize it needs washing?” Every senior will be at a different stage of life so be aware of their mood and how you phrase your question.

Otherwise, careful observation can give you the answers you’re looking for. Impaired judgment and/or short term memory are common contributors to the problem; sufferers may have trouble telling days apart, remembering which outfit they wore last, making decisions, or discerning dirty clothes from clean ones. Alternatively, your loved ones may simply like their one set of clothing, because it’s comfortable, attractive, or effortless.

How can I help?

As a caregiver, you must first be certain an elder’s choice of wardrobe (or lack thereof) really is a problem. It may not be such a big deal if they only change clothing every couple of days, especially if they’re content in them. Silverts has a large selection of easy-wash garments; our stylish designs are also great for disguising stains and spills. Be sure you’re after a solution in order to help their personal hygiene, not your displeasure in seeing repeat outfits.

Secondly, you may be able to assist them in improving their own habit. Perhaps it’s just a matter of taking them shopping, purging/organizing their closet, or pre-planning outfits for them.

Finally, if you have to get creative, here are some hands-on tips to help seniors that do not change or wash their clothing often enough:

  • Buy doubles of their favorite clothing articles. This way, one can be washed while the other is worn. This is extremely important in pants, these great gaberdine pants come in  many different colors, so get a few pairs for an affordable price. Having a few of the same color can also help to create less confusion when picking out the morning outfit.
  • For socks and undergarments, the more the merrier! The safe bet is to have underwear ready for two weeks and bras and undershirts have one week’s worth. This might seem like too much, but you have to remember they don’t have as much energy to do laundry regularly.
  • Remove dirty garments while they are asleep, laying clean, similar pieces in the same spot. Try to promote “laundry days”, where you do your laundry with them. This can help them keep a resemblance of a routine, which might calm them about you taking their clothes to be washed.
  • If you are finding them sleeping in the clothes they have on, try making a nighttime routine. If you see them daily, or know that they have someone coming in daily, try to promote putting pyjamas on their bed, so when they go to bed they are there for them to see. A big reason why seniors may sleep in the same outfit that they are wearing that day could be because they are simply to tired to change at night. Try calling them at a reasonable hour to tell them you are going to bed and that they should change into their pyjamas too.
  • Giving them an area of different outfits for the week can be an easy task for a Sunday visit. If you are only able to visit them once a week, clear off a dresser or vanity and make a weeks worth of outfits. Anything to make the morning groggy

There are many different reasons as to why seniors might be wearing the same outfits. They could simply just be too tired to go through laundering. It might be their most comfortable outfit. They may even think that they haven’t worn it yet depending on their state. Once you figure out the reason you can take the proper course of action and think of ways to prevent this. If they don’t have any assistance at home yet, it might be time to start thinking about getting them in home help. It could just be that they need a little extra help in the morning, or that they need a little extra help around the house.

Did we miss any great caregiving tips? Let us know in the comments section below!


  • ilene says:

    Whst if the person with dementia refuses to change pants for months?

  • Nadina Barnes says:

    I hand dye commercial clothing the same color but a bit darker than the original fabric. The clothes are almost a solid color, but with a texture look. I do this before the clothes get stained (stains interfere with dye).) and the hand dyed look makes stains much less noticeable. Often the thread is polyester on cotton clothes, so you either ignore the saddle-stitch look or go over the thread with a pigma micron pen. I use professional procion dyes, but the Rit available in grocery stores is good enough. Just scrunch up the clothing in a bucket and pour dye on top for a textured look. It is a very inexpensive way to keep someone looking good.

  • Bonnie says:

    As my husband and I age I’ve noticed several reasons for wearing the same thing over and over. Decreased eyesight and sense of smell prevent us noticing stains and stale smells. As his dementia increases he has focused on several outfits that he knows are “OK”. Changes in styles and mental abilities make choice difficult. There is always the fear of looking ridiculous!

  • […] performing daily activities such as bathing, changing clothes, or eating […]

  • Jackie Aldridge says:

    Having six or more of the same shirt and pants is helpful. The idea is to have a clean outdoor every day rather than sorry about variety.

  • Victor Sledge says:

    This is such a great post. Seemingly simple things like changing clothes can be a challenge as we age, especially for people with dementia. I found this other blog post that talks more about it:

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