The relieving nature of a regular routine can be even more potent for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
People suffering from memory loss “thrive on familiarity. Familiar faces, a familiar environment, even familiar food—anything they can use as a touchstone. This comforting sense of familiarity is so helpful because dementia gradually impairs a person’s ability to plan, initiate and complete an activity.
People with dementia experience greater difficulty when attempting to do new things. A predictable routine can prevent a person with dementia from becoming distracted and forgetting what they were doing. Even if there is little or no conscious awareness of time, routine helps ground them.
A daily agenda may even be able to help a person with Alzheimer’s cope with the short-term memory loss that is typically one of the first things to be affected by the disease.
Establishing a predictable pattern of events can help transfer the schedule of a daily routine into the long-term memory portion of the brain, helping a person retain their ability to perform activities of daily life, such as brushing their teeth or fixing a snack.
Tips for starting (and sticking to) a routine
When coming up with a regular routine for someone with dementia, the overarching goal should be to tailor it as much to your loved one’s preferences and past activities as possible.
The more you can include activities that resonate with your loved one’s pre-dementia life, the better. Did they have a favorite television program that they liked to watch at a certain time? Did they enjoy listening to a particular radio talk show? Did they always meet up with their friends for a game of checkers on Sunday nights?
Here are suggestions of other, more generic, activities that are also important to include in a daily routine:
- Medication administration
- Meal times
- Brushing of teeth and hair
- Leisure activities
The more you can schedule, the easier you’ll make things for you and your family member with dementia.
Sticking to the plan while going with the flow
Once a daily procedure is established, it’s important to try and follow it as often as possible.
Disruptions in daily routines (such as those caused by holiday visits to other family members’ houses) can elevate your loved one’s anxiety and make it harder for them to get back to a normal schedule once the disturbance is over.
Of course schedules will change, depending on doctor’s appointments, unexpected illnesses, an elder’s changing mood, and the progression of their disease.
In these instances, caregivers should remain flexible and go with the flow, do not insist on routines if the person with dementia is resistant. Try to learn how to recognize when your loved one is becoming agitated or stressed by a routine, and then modify the schedule to fit their changing needs.
Taking care of a loved one with dementia is a continual process of trial and error. One day, your loved one might enjoy going for a midday stroll in the park, the next day they may not even want to set one foot out of the door.
Make sure you look after your own needs, not just the needs of your loved one. In the event you feel you need help, we’re only a phone call away.
Superior Senior Home Care offers a complimentary consultation with an advisor to help you determine your loved one’s home care needs. To schedule your free consultation, call 805.430.8767 or contact us online.