Care Home Clothing: A Guide for Families of Residents

Collaborative post by another author. It's a minor, but very common theme when families of residents get together, whether in person or on an online forum – what has happened to mum's/ dad's/ uncle Joe's clothes? Sometimes it can feel as though care homes treat laundry as a massive mix and match, even when every other aspect of the excellent home, dressing the residents in whatever clothes they have to hand without worrying about who actually owns them. Now, there are a couple of reasons that this happens and it isn't because they don't care. Let's have a look at care home clothing and find out what's going on.

An elderly person in a chair with a care home staff member looking after them.
Do you find clothes are going missing in your parent's care home?

Dementia Patients

Often dementia patients lose track of the clothes that are theirs and instead happily wear a garment that belongs to the resident down the hall or next door. A cardigan taken off in the breakfast room can be snaffled up by someone who's feeling a chill; the resident can ask the staff for their 'favourite purple sweater' quite forgetting that the purple sweater in question was lost many years ago. And, finally, in some care homes, clean laundry is left on large racks, waiting to be redistributed, but residents take matters into their own hands, choosing garments they like or even that they genuinely believe to be theirs.

Dementia patients can also reject their own garments as being someone else's because their relatives bought them after the onset of the disease, and they simply don't recognise them, according to staff working in dementia care in Minehead.

Unlabelled Issues

Most care homes require residents' clothing to be labelled with their surname and/ or their room number to help with getting the clothing back to the right place once it has been washed. However, some people don't do this, labels can come loose and fall off and names can fade or bleed, rendering the notation unreadable. Rather than operate an immense lost and found while leaving residents with poor choices or inadequate clothing, it is infinitely better all round to use the clothes where they are needed and hope that the issue of ownership will resolve itself soon enough.

Even Labels Can be Problematic

Even when there are labels on clothing, sometimes the family will put them in obscure or out of the way places: and the laundry assistant cannot find them by looking quickly in the usual places for name tags or labels!

Is There a Solution?

Many of the issues with laundry in care homes comes down to laundry systems. There is strict legislation about how laundry should be cleaned to prevent the spread of disease, so gathering the whole home's laundry together and then trying to sort out these items into appropriate piles is a tricky job, even when the labels are all in place. Having sufficient staff is the first step towards happy, properly dressed residents, but meanwhile in some care homes in Sweden, each resident's room has its own small washer and dryer, and the assistants put a small load on in the morning while they are helping their charge to get dressed. This helps to keep the resident's clothes in one place and prevents the spread of disease. Caring staff will always do their best to keep your loved one warm, dry, fed and dressed – just perhaps not always in their own clothes.

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