If you are caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia, you know how challenging and confusing life can be for your patient. One of the best ways we can make days easier, and help your loved one feel comfortable, is to establish a clear routine. Assist the routine with non-verbal cues, to help them understand.
Routines will be different for every family, and may evolve as the dementia progresses and health conditions change. The following is a simple example of a routine, and how it can help.
Mornings: Wake up at the same time. Use gentle cues, such as opening the blinds, to indicate that it is the morning hour and time to get dressed. When assisting your loved one with Alzheimer’s to dress, try to think of what are good tasks for them. For example, buttons and shoe laces may be difficult, but finding the laundry basket may be easier. Try to include them as much as possible.
Meals: Eat at the same times, and in the same place. If your loved one has a seat at the kitchen table, that will feel more familiar. Try not to ask many questions, such as “What would you like to eat?”. Instead, indicate “Here is your lunch. Eat this.”
Activities: As before the dementia diagnosis, exercise and fresh air are necessary to good health. Going outside for walks, gardening, even checking the mail, should be in your routine. Be realistic about what is safe and easy for your loved one. As Alzheimer’s progresses, going out alone will not be possible. Try to schedule outings at the same time in the middle of the day, when sunlight will be consistent.
Visitors: Invite visitors at the same time. Many people worry about socializing as dementia-related behavior may be challenging or embarrassing. Remember that it is important for you to reach out, and see others. Your friends and family will also want to visit you.
Bedtime: Use more non-verbal cues to indicate bedtime. Dimming lights in the house and playing soft music may help to induce sleepiness.
If you have questions about developing a routine, there are a lot of resources available for caring with Alzheimer’s. Contact a local caregiver for a consultation.
As you set out on your new routine to care for your loved one suffering from dementia, it is often easier to determine in the beginning at what point you will no longer be able to act as the primary caregiver. Being prepared ahead of time will help make the transition to in-home, or out of home, professional care much smoother and easier for everyone.