For older adults in memory care, a consistent daily routine is crucial. Keeping up with a regular schedule helps prevent feelings of restlessness and frustration. Additionally, older adults in memory care find comfort and clarity when their day is predictable. If you’re caring for a loved one in the early stages of dementia, a solid routine will benefit you as well.
At Autumn View Gardens assisted living community, we prioritize consistency and aim to provide residents with an environment that feels like home. Keeping a regular schedule is easy with flexible meal times and 24-hour support. Now, let’s talk about the many benefits routine and consistency can provide no matter where you live.
Studies show that people who experience dementia feel and perform their best when life is habitual and predictable. Even small unexpected changes like skipping breakfast can cause feelings of stress or anger. This is because people with dementia struggle to absorb new information. When your loved one knows what to expect, they'll feel more in control and thus calmer and safer. Additionally, repeating a daily routine over and over can help that routine become a part of your long-term memory bank.
To put it simply, routines refer to activities or actions that are completed on a regular, reoccurring schedule. Routines can be repeated daily, like brushing your teeth, or weekly/monthly, like going to the hair salon. People form routines around many types of activities. For example, you might have a workout routine or a morning wake-up routine. You might have a weekend ritual or specific steps surrounding mealtime. All types of routines can benefit older adults with dementia.
Caring for a loved one who’s experiencing dementia can be challenging at times. Mood swings and memory loss can cause you (the caretaker) to feel heightened, unpleasant emotions. You might find yourself feeling overwhelmed at times or more frustrated than you’d like to be. Having a little predictability provides as much calmness for you as it does for your loved one.
So now we know keeping a consistent daily routine is important, but how do you go about starting the process? Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning a schedule for your loved one with dementia.
Keeping up with diet and hygiene is crucial to feeling your best. This is true for everyone. Focus on how and when your loved one prefers to perform grooming tasks. Do they put their makeup on in the bathroom or at a bedroom vanity? Do they like to eat breakfast in the kitchen or outside on the patio? Does their day normally start at 7 a.m. or 11 a.m.? Base your routine around the habits and preferences your loved one already has to make things easier and more enjoyable.
It’s important to incorporate as many of your loved one’s likes and interests into the routine as possible. For example, setting out a favorite piece of clothing or watching an old movie that always sparks joy are things that should be frequently included in your routine. Always remember to make plenty of time for crafting and other favorite pastimes.
Participating in regular physical activity offers several mental and physical health benefits. Some form of exercise should be included in everyone's daily routine. This is especially true for adults with dementia as regular physical activity is thought to lessen dementia symptoms. Whether it’s a morning walk or light dancing, getting the body moving is essential. Choose a physical activity that your loved one has always enjoyed to keep things easy and familiar.
A loss of independence can be difficult to accept for adults experiencing dementia. Routines can help with those feelings. Don’t be afraid to set reminders for tasks, and label common items to make sticking to the routine independently as easy as possible.
Dementia progresses over time, and routines that started out easy often become more difficult as time goes on. That doesn’t mean you should abandon having a consistent routine altogether, but it does mean you may have to modify it to meet your loved one where they’re at.
Routine often gets a bad rap for being boring. But, in reality, routines help adults with dementia immensely. They can lower anxiety and stress while boosting feelings of independence and confidence. Keeping the days consistent doesn’t have to be a snore-fest. In fact, even as a caregiver, you’ll find yourself taking comfort in the predictability and ease that comes with your daily and weekly routines.