Put yourself in the position of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Time seems to lose all relevance, memories are faint or inaccessible, and your self-identity feels alien. Depending on the progression of the disease, some people won’t even be capable of grasping that these symptoms are affecting them, living at the whim of their condition. But, daily routines organized by a patient’s caregiver can make the difference and a chance at a relatively normal life.
Although daily routines can seem monotonous to no avail, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s often rely on some sense of structure to maintain their health. These Alzheimer’s and dementia produce a sense of disorientation and feelings of uncertainty as to what will happen next. Even for completely healthy people, daily routines can reduce stress and create a sense of control over the day’s outcome.
People suffering from memory loss thrive on familiar faces, environments, foods, and activities, ideally helping to establish more long-term memories when possible. With a more predictable daily routine, people with dementia can work to retain their ability to perform the activities of daily living – simple things like brushing one’s teeth or remembering to eat.
Tips for Planning Daily Routines
Unless you’re brand new to caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s, you’ve probably already established what’s involved with providing care from one day to the next. That said, even the most unchanging routines can have blind spots so it’s good to reflect on the process every so often.
A daily routine for someone needing memory care will need to begin with the basics – waking up to have breakfast, taking medications, grooming and bathing, then preparing for the day ahead. Taking into account the personal preferences and past activities of a loved one is crucial to helping them feel connected and encouraging them to participate. Try to figure out what regularly scheduled programs they enjoy on television or the radio as a way for them to establish time and place. It’s little things like this that can make a huge difference.
Stick to the Plan and Go with the Flow
Of course, things won’t always follow a strict and unyielding daily routine, sometimes for the better. Since dementia patients can often experience extreme shifts in what they prefer from one day to the next, planning for flexibility is rarely a bad idea. Between doctor’s appointments, unexpected illnesses, or other errands to run, leaving time open throughout the day can reduce stress and agitation for both a caregiver and their loved one.
Really, it’s all about responding to the needs of a loved one accordingly, without imposing too much rigidity which could result in discord and burnout. Everyone has different needs and is at a unique stage in their journey with dementia or Alzheimer’s, so the best tactics usually include remaining adaptive without compromising a healthy structure to caregiving.
The key to a successful daily routine is recognizing when it needs to change or stay firm. Listening to your loved one and sometimes reading between the lines of someone’s dementia can make sure a schedule works for you and not the other way around!