Importance of Daily Routine for Dementia Patients

Routines and healthy habits are important for everyone, including older adults living with dementia. In fact, establishing a daily routine for dementia patients can be one of the most important parts of a dementia care plan. Here’s why (and how you can set one up for yourself or a loved one experiencing dementia-related memory loss).

Why is Routine Important for People with Dementia?

Routine can be an important part of a daily care plan for people at any stage of dementia.

For starters, forming healthy long-term habits and routines can lead to reduced stress, or at least improve stress management. After all, routine breeds familiarity. Familiarity can reduce uncertainty and remove at least some instances where potentially frustrating decisions have to be made. Since people living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia commonly experience confusion and decline in decision-making skills, this sense of certainty can improve emotional well-being and reduce stress-related outbursts.

Beyond reducing stress, establishing a routine can improve the likelihood that people follow through on care plans set by their doctors. Specifically, incorporating the doctor’s orders—be that improving diet, exercising more, and taking medications on time—into a daily routine can help these actions become second nature, meaning they are easier to follow through on. Following through on long-term care plans can be life changing for people living with dementia, as it means that they may be more likely to take steps that can help slow the progression of the disease.

How to Establish a Routine When Living with Dementia

Clearly, the importance of a well-defined daily routine for dementia patients cannot be overstated. But how do you establish one in the first place?

Some of the most important factors to keep in mind when establishing routines for people living with dementia include the following.

  • Bedtime/wake-up time. Keeping bedtimes and wake-up times consistent can improve sleep quality and quantity, help manage stress, and reduce the odds of sundown syndrome.
  • Designated meal times. Meals don’t have to be the same day in and day out, but they should be at the same time each day. Furthermore, meals should have the right blend of vegetables, fruits, healthy grains, fats, and proteins.
  • Exercise. It’s important to develop an exercise routine that is appropriate for the individual, with workouts taking place at the same time of day.
  • Collaboration. Receiving a dementia diagnosis in the family might seem isolating, but it does not have to be. It’s during this time that teamwork should matter more than ever. Family members, doctors, and eldercare specialists like trained dementia caregivers should all work together to determine a routine that is feasible for the person living with dementia.
  • Socialization. It’s necessary to incorporate socialization in the person’s routine, as loneliness in seniors can worsen dementia symptoms. Furthermore, daily check-ins (if not more) with the patient can mean monitoring the person for signs of dementia progressing. Socialization doesn’t have to be extravagant; it can be as simple as having someone play cards with the neighbors after dinner each evening.
  • Recreation. A dementia diagnosis can be life-altering, but what never alters is the innate human desire to be creative and have fun. Ensuring that people with dementia have designated recreational time each day is important to help them improve their mental health, flex their creativity, and bring joy to their lives. Recreational activities can include arts and crafts, playing crossword puzzles, and gardening.
  • Stage of dementia. Perhaps most important to keep in mind is what stage of the disease someone is in and how it can affect capabilities. What someone could do after first receiving a diagnosis can be much, much different to what this person can do five years later, for example.

In the Early Stage

Someone in the early stage of dementia may be able to live alone with some home-safety modifications to reduce falls and other injuries. However, families may still want to help out their loved ones living with dementia in other ways.

Perhaps the single-most important thing family members can do to help their loved ones is to let them do their own household chores or other daily activities. So long as it is safe to do so, letting people with dementia take ownership of these tasks can help them feel a real sense of purpose and self worth, along with helping them get used to a routine.

Appropriate tasks for many people in the early stages of the disease include:

  • A personal care routine at the same time each morning and night, which can mean toileting, brushing teeth, and taking medications.
  • Household chores like cleaning dishes after meals and folding laundry.

A person with dementia may complete these tasks imperfectly or much more slowly than normal. That is okay. So long as these tasks are completed in a way that does not compromise safety, continue to let the individual complete these tasks, even if it is tempting to step in to save time.

In the Middle Stage

As dementia progresses, the need for a strong routine remains more important than ever. However, people in the middle stages of this condition may not be able to live alone anymore and they may also need help with activities of daily living like getting dressed or showering. In these cases, ensuring someone (family member or hired caregiver) is always present at the same time each day to help the older adult complete this daily routine is critical.

In the Late Stage

At this stage, someone can no longer live safely alone in any capacity. Full-time, live-in help is required if the person stays at home, or the individual should move into a senior living community, such as a skilled nursing care or memory care community. Moving into a long-term care community may be especially beneficial as these locations are designed with dementia patients in mind and adhere to a regular routine that helps reduce stress for residents.

Establishing a Routine at St. Andrew’s

Establishing a daily routine for dementia patients can improve quality of life for all involved. We know that at St. Andrew’s. It is why our memory care and assisted living communities cater to the needs of people living with all types of dementia. From simple floor designs to a well-designed daily schedule to properly trained staff available to help 24/7, we do everything possible to make each day joyful and easy to navigate. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you or your aging loved one with dementia develop a healthy routine in our communities.

Disclaimers: This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It cannot be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition. Please direct any and all healthcare concerns to a licensed healthcare provider.

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