One of the questions that frequently come up in our email inbox is why routine is important for dementia.
Because dementia is a progressive disease, people with the illness usually start to lose their independence as they are unable to complete various daily tasks effectively.
The Importance of Routine for Dementia/Alzheimer’s
A daily routine is, therefore, IMPORTANT for individuals with the illness. It helps people navigate their world in a more predictable manner.
Experts agree that individuals with dementia THRIVE on familiarity because this makes them feel calm, reassured, and comforted.
This also helps to add some sense of order to their days. Especially in the early stages of the illness.
Benefits of Daily Routines for Persons with Dementia
Keep in mind that routines/habits are normally stored in LONG-TERM memory (subconscious mind).
At first, dementia affects short-term memory which implies that affected individuals will still have access to the routines even in the middle stages of the illness.
Persons with dementia often struggle with short-term memory loss. They have a hard time learning new ways of doing things.
The individuals can struggle to stay focused for a long time or even remember instructions on how to carry out a particular task.
Daily routines come in handy because a person does not have to worry about learning anything new. Hence, effectively copes with short-term memory loss warning signs.
Because a person is handling familiar tasks, routines also help to reinforce a sense of independence. This can boost self-esteem and even help people retain skills for a longer period.
As people with the progressive illness start to lose their physical and cognitive abilities, they tend to become more frustrated with life.
Routine is crucial because it helps affected persons face their daily challenges with a greater sense of peace as well as security.
Daily routines do not only benefit people with dementia because they also help to reduce caregiver stress.
When daily routines are established, days become more predictable which ensures things run more smoothly.
When individuals with dementia are less anxious or agitated they have more chances for moments of connection and happiness.
Better sleep is another answer to the IMPORTANCE of routine and dementia.
Having a daily routine can help seniors with the progressive illness enjoy better sleep.
An individual who gets enough sleep becomes well rested to face the day ahead.
How to Develop Daily Routines
After learning why is routine important for dementia, it is also recommended that caregivers learn how to develop helpful routines.
Crafting routines for a person with dementia may NOT be easy.
However, some strategies and tips can help in the development of the routines for people with the neurodegenerative illness.
Some of them include:
Coming up with Personalized Routines
It is important to note that dementia DOES NOT have the same effect on everyone who has the disease.
This means that a caregiver has to study the likes and dislikes of the person they are caring for to come up with a suitable routine.
Take into consideration a person’s bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, and toileting schedules when crafting the routine.
It is normally HELPFUL to keep routines in line with what the affected person has done for most of their lives.
For instance, if the person has been brushing their teeth after breakfast, let them maintain this routine.
Note that as the illness progresses, the abilities of the affected persons will also change.
It is, therefore, important to be flexible and adjust routines accordingly. Allow persons with dementia to handle as much as they can without too much pressure.
Patience is also key when dealing with persons with the illness. As time goes by, they may need to take more time doing tasks they used to complete fast.
Consider taking a break or changing the activity when a person becomes irritable or bored to avoid overwhelming them.
Additionally, it is also vital to have a section for spontaneous activities like visiting a friend or relative to the routine.
Involve the Person with Dementia
When coming up with a routine for the person with the progressive illness, get their input to know about their preferences.
It is also important to get them involved in simple tasks they can complete with ease. It can be ANYTHING from folding laundry or doing dishes because this helps maintain motor and cognitive skills.
Even if the affected persons complete the job perfectly, let them do it without any correction or ridicule.
Remember to offer praises when they are done as this helps boost a sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
Daily routines should also include fun physical exercises.
It does not have to be anything strenuous but SIMPLE activities that a person can complete without too much struggle.
Depending on a person’s abilities, they can go for walks go to the gym, or even engage in chair yoga.
Include Therapeutic Activities
Include activities that the person with dementia ENJOYS as part of their routine.
It is also recommended that carers add activities that help create a sense of time.
For example, putting on a show they love to watch in the evening so that they can know it’s time to sleep in a few hours.
The nonverbal cues will prove to be helpful in the later stages of the illness when the individual loses their ability to communicate well.
When coming up with a daily routine, note that disruptions may occur and the affected person may not always follow the routine to the latter.
Caregivers should not beat themselves too hard about this. Routines are only put in place to offer structure; thus, should not be too rigid.
When asking why is routine important for dementia, it is essential to note that the benefits of routine are profound.
Because human beings are creatures of habit having routines is crucial for decreasing behavioral habits, enhancing comfort, boosting self-esteem, increasing a sense of safety and security, and a host of other perks.
Bonus: What is a Routine?
Routines can be described as things that happen regularly, often daily.
They can compromise activities like:
- Eating breakfast
- Taking a shower
- Reading the newspaper or magazine
- Working out
- Taking medication
- Drinking water
- Doing the dishes
- Going for a walk
- Getting hair done on Saturday, etc.
Routines may also outline the order in which tasks should be completed.
For example, before a person goes to bed, they may want to start by visiting the bathroom, brushing teeth, using the toilet, washing hands, and finally retiring.