My 87-year-old mother is constantly washing and rewashing clothes. She wears the same outfit almost every day and some days will keep her pajamas on all day. But there are always piles and piles of laundry up and down the hallway, in the dining room, in the kitchen, and in the laundry room. You would think she was washing clothes for a 10-member household. And no, we do not have a large family, nor did she when growing up. Many of the clothes are summer items and it is now winter and cold outside. We are mystified by this behavior.

Washing and rewashing over and over, week after week. Other than an obvious tripping hazard, should we be concerned? Is this a sign of dementia?

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Limit her wardrobe to what she will wear during the week so that she does not wash everything.
You do not give any information in your profile so I am going to ask...
Does mom live with you? Or does mom live alone? Or with someone else?
From this question and the one you asked previously, it does sound like there is something going on and she should be seen by her doctor. All the "quirks" that you have noticed recently, or even over the past year should be mentioned to the doctor no matter how silly or trivial they seem.
You might want to fill in more info on your profile so you will get better more accurate responses.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Grandma1954

I am with grandma1954, limit her wardrobe. Where is she going that she needs this many clothes? Pack away any out of season clothes.

Other than that, is she bored? Can you substitute another activity for her?

Does she do any other things in a repetitive manner? Have you noticed that her memory is not as good as it was before?

Have you considered taking her to a neurologist for testing?

Can you please provide more information?
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

I had a situation with a person who was ninety-four years young who would cancel her weekend help. When I got there on a Monday, she would have packed clothes in a bag saying they were wet. They were not. Instead of arguing with her, I would just take them and place them in the dryer and refold them. The kitchen would be in a mess where had she tried to prepare a meal. Her weekend help was setup to come in to do meals, personal care and light housekeeping. So, when I got in on the weekdays, I could start the breakfast and do the medication reminders. She had started calling friends to bring her meals saying that the aides didn't show up. She had forgotten that she called and cancelled her services. Of course, family members were confused about why this was happening. One day I explained to them what had been happening. They wanted to blame the agency.

In your case, and like others have said, just pack up those clothes that are not in use. Repetitive activities are part of the dementia process. The brain is broken. Redirecting of activities may be a help. Sometimes the brain gets caught up in a loop.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Scampie1

Is she a germ-a-phobe? Worried when she goes out that she picks up covid or other germs on her clothes? It seems like maybe she doesn't go out a lot if she's 87 but I thought I'd ask because I know someone who got that stuck in their head during the pandemic and the person was always overly cautious of exposure to germs before the pandemic too but not about clothes until the time when they started saying we should us to disinfect our groceries before bringing them in the house and to leave boxes delivered outside for a few days.

I'm not positive but I think germ-a-phobia (if that's even the official name of it) falls under an OCD behavior. Does your mom have other OCD behaviors and maybe with her dementia she's now developed this weird thing about washing clothes over and over? Those are just the ideas that came to my mind when I read your question.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to LilMelba

My first thought is that she may be incontinent and may be having accidents. And she may be trying to get rid of an odor that may or may not be coming from the clothes. My mom has dementia, and if left unsupervised will stack a pile of clean clothes on a chair and pee on them. She then puts the soiled clothes in a pile. I may be off the mark for your mother, but that's what my mom did. I hope you find the answer.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Natasana

If the repetitive laundering goes away another activity may take its place.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to vegaslady

It’s certainly a sign that something is not right. There are quite a few conditions that could cause baffling behavior besides dementia. I suggest getting in touch with her doctor who may want to see her and do lab tests. I can say that most people with dementia do obsess over one or two things for awhile as their disease progresses.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to BuffyRoberts

Yes, my MIL with suspected vascular dementia did this. She was neat about it but she was constantly washing clothes for a while. That got replaced by other obsessions, and ultimately she would just wander around her house - until she could no longer live at home.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to bluebell19

Isabel21: Eliminate access to all these articles of clothing. Problem solved if minimal clothing remains.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to Llamalover47

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