Washing and Dressing Care Needs for a person with Dementia

Washing and dressing care needs for a person with dementia

Individuals with dementia may need help with washing and dressing

Washing and dressing can become difficult as a disease like Alzheimer’s or other dementias progress.

However, as the dementia progresses and the persons memory deteriorates it is important to identify and note that the person may well require additional support with personnel areas such as washing and dressing themselves.

Especialy if the person is living independantly in their own home.

We take a look at these two important areas of care, washing and dressing.

Dressing a person with dementia

In the early stages of dementia an individual is usually able to choose their own clothes and able to wash and dress themselves with ease but as the disease progresses then so the needs of the person will change.

Always offer a person choice of what to wear but keep this simple. Offer two choices of clothes at most and show them the possibilities of clothes. Allow the person to choose which clothes they want to wear.

Assist the person to choose previously preferred styles and clothing. Make sure they are comfortable, well presented in their appearance and are dressed with seasonally appropriate clothing.

Put the clothes in order of wear. This is beneficial to help avoid confusion with the order the clothes are put on.

Avoid fiddly buttons and zips on clothes. It may also help to name drawers and wardrobes with useful stickers and signage to remind the person what clothing is situated where.

Occasionally a person with dementia might be unwilling to dress or take off dirty clothing, despite the fact there may be a need for this (e.g. when soiled or at bedtime). Use friendly and encouraging words with a clear explanation of why they need to change their clothing.


Personal hygiene and washing is something most of us take for granted as an independent activity. For those with dementia the task can present new, confusing, anxiety provoking and difficult challenges which can lead to refusals in washing appropriately.

Use encouraging, positive and persuasive language to encourage personal hygiene needs are met. Try to never show frustration or impatience within your own manner.

Support the person in a dignified and private approach to either shower or take a bath in a chosen way they previously used or are now comfortable with. Importantly, be mindful of the timing and preferred routines.

A person with dementia who previously showered for example may well dislike the experience now, so be prepared to offer a bath as an alternative which is not too deeply filled or too hot in temperature.

Be prepared to support the person during the washing experience so as not to provoke potential distress around being left alone or to leave them with desired privacy.

Use tactful and understanding support to encourage as much independence as possible for the person to properly and appropriately wash thoroughly.

A use of a dignified ‘hand over hand’ technique to help a person guide their own washing is also very beneficial.

Washing and dressing video

There is a good video on washing and dressing an individual with dementia. The video is made by Watch Pines Education Institute of S.W. Florida.  You can watch the video below.

We have a dementia shop that lists lots of products that can assist you in washing and dressing a person with dementia. Please visit here for the dementia shop

If you have any other tips on supporting a person with dementia when they are washing and dressing please let us know below.

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