Making a bed, a morning cup of coffee, an evening walk – you may not give your daily rituals and routines much thought. However, for a person living with dementia, daily routines can be incredibly helpful, adding a sense of control and predictability to their day.
Daily routines help people living with dementia navigate their world in a predictable way. This is beneficial in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and it becomes even more important as the individual loses awareness over time.
Memory support routines help:
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Reduce agitation.
- Improve sleep.
- Promote a level of independence.
- Build trust with caregivers.
- Enhance comfort and calm.
What Should I Consider When Creating a Routine?
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s and dementia takes patience and flexibility. Consider these tips when working to establish a routine. Ultimately, you want to create a positive environment for both your loved one and their caregiver.
Try to Maintain a Familiar Routine
According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s important to pay close attention to the individual’s bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting routines.
At what time of day do they typically engage in these tasks? Does he or she have favorite clothing items or colors? What are his or her favorite foods or beverages?
If you can pay attention and diligently observe these patterns in the early stages of the disease, it is easier to help the individual maintain them in the long run.
If the individual’s dementia is in a later stage, try to recall them. The more a caregiver can facilitate activities that resonate with their loved one’s pre-dementia life, the better.
Some tasks, such as bathing or medical appointments, are easier when the person is most alert and refreshed. Try to schedule visits from family or friends, appointments and other activities during the time of day when the individual is most likely to be at their best. Allow some flexibility for spontaneous activities or particularly difficult days.
Take Your Time
Feeling rushed is likely to be stressful for both the individual and the caregiver. Anticipate that tasks may take longer than they used to and allow more time for them. It’s also important to make time for breaks during tasks.
Involve the Person
Allow the person with dementia to do as much as possible with the least amount of assistance. For example, he or she might be able to set the table with the help of visual cues or dress independently if you lay out clothes in the order they go on. This can help preserve autonomy and dignity in a person living with dementia.
Give a person living with dementia choices without overwhelming them. For example, you could provide two outfits to choose from or try asking if they prefer a hot or cold beverage.
Simple decisions allow their preferences to be heard.
Help maintain good sleep habits by avoiding multiple or prolonged naps during the day. This can minimize the risk of getting days and nights reversed.
Provide Simple Instructions
People with dementia best understand clear, one-step communication. Try, “sit here, please” or “put on your socks.” Focus on one task at a time. Visual aids can also help.
Turn off the TV and minimize other distractions during tasks, mealtimes, and when engaging in conversation. Limiting background noise and other distractions can make it easier for the person with dementia to focus.
Other familiar activities and interests are important to the caregiving experience. What types of music does your loved one enjoy, or even better, which specific songs? Do they have favorite television shows or movies that bring them joy? What hobbies or leisure activities does he or she like to do? If you are not sure, start making a note of them. The more you can engage your loved one in these activities, the more secure and comfortable your loved one will feel.
A routine that is tailored to your loved one’s ability level, interests, and preferences can help them experience meaning and joy in each day.
As you build a routine, you’ll create a predictable environment that brings some comfort and understanding in their now confusing world.
Within Senior Star Memory Care & Support we work with you to create an individualized care plan for your loved one. Involving the family and prior caregivers is essential to getting a full picture of their preferences and prior routines to help make a transition as seamless as possible.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a lot to take on. That is why we are here to help even if just for a short time. Our respite program, Relax & Restore, gives caregivers the opportunity to take a break. You can recharge with peace of mind knowing your loved one is safe and well cared for during their entire stay.