As a previous employee for the Alzheimer’s Association and a caregiver for people diagnosed with dementia, I cannot stress enough the importance of a routine for someone living with dementia. If caring for a family member or friend, think about your loved ones routine before the dementia diagnosis. If you are a caregiver, talk with your client’s loved ones to discover past routines and preferences. Think back to childhood. As children our parents created routines for us to provide structure and comfort. As an adult we continue to have routines but get more control over our daily tasks. People with dementia need to continue to have control and one way to do that is to respect their past routines. Below are some examples of major routines people have and questions to ask yourself about your current practice with your loved one or client.

1.) Bathing

Depending on what stage someone is in with the progression of dementia, they can be resistant to bathing. Let’s face it, it does not feel very dignified having someone else bathe us and this alone can make bathing a challenging aspect of care. It is important to keep in mind when and how often your loved one bathed. Are you trying to get someone to take a shower, when they have taken baths their whole life? Was your loved one very modest? It might help to use a towel to cover their body while they shower or bath to help them feel comfortable during a vulnerable moment.

2.) Meals

Maybe your loved one ate dinner at eight, not five. If someone lives in a community there are usually set meal times but all communities have food options available after meal times. This may mean your loved one has dinner after everyone else in order to increase nutritional intake. Did your love one read the paper every morning with breakfast? It could be that your loved one can no longer read the paper but having a paper in front of them during breakfast could trigger a long term memory and encourage eating.

3.) Activities

Was a morning walk part of your loved ones routine? Maybe your loved one is in a wheelchair now and lives in a community and a walk in the neighborhood is no longer an option but maybe a stroll in the courtyard with a caregiver is. This might help ease agitation for the rest of the day.

4.) Sleep/Wake Routines

Does your loved one go to sleep when you help him or her to bed at eight or is he or she waking up multiple times to wander? Maybe your loved one usually went to bed at ten and eight is just too early. Are you trying to get your loved one up at six, when they usually did not rise until eight in the morning and you notice that he or she is fatigued throughout the day? Perhaps a little more sleep will help. If sleep patterns have to be changed, due to a caregivers schedule, be sure to change the patterns slowly in order for a smoother transition.

5.) Dressing

Routines are not just about what your loved one did in the past, routines are also about daily consistency. Try and put clothes on at the same time everyday and the same way. You may notice that your loved one gets dressed easier, because he or she starts to predict the routine and may not be as overwhelmed. Simplicity is key. Do not overwhelm with too many choices. Your loved one’s brain cannot as easily handle the vast amount of choices we have in this world and process them as quickly as they once could. The whole closet might have too many options, so help your loved one by having two outfits to choose from versus an entire wardrobe.

How often are we trying to have someone with dementia to do what we want them to do? Let us help empower someone with dementia by asking and remembering what they might want to do and recognize and be mindful of their past routines. Keep your loved as involved with their own care as much as possible, in order to maintain dignity and autonomy. Not all routines can be accommodated but remembering some of your loved ones routines could lessen tension at meal times, bedtime and other various routines of the day. It is at the very least, worth a try! Call Denver Senior Care consultants today for more tips that apply directly to your loved ones care needs.