Caring for a person with dementia is difficult and challenging. Most caregivers are not prepared for the many obstacles they will face along this journey of caregiving. Memory loss and other changes to the brain caused by dementia can create stress, anxiety, and irrational behaviors. The importance of routine and familiarity to persons with dementia is profound! Daily structure can help decrease these undesired behaviors such as aggression, restlessness and agitation. As a result, the caregiver will experience less stress and be able to give better care.
How does daily structure result in less stress?
Daily routines help reduce stress and anxiety because they help everyone involved to know what to expect. Persons with dementia thrive on familiarity. Familiarity is important because dementia gradually impairs a person’s ability to plan, initiate, and complete an activity. By creating an environment of familiar routines and activities, it allows them to feel comforted and calm. If they can still perform an activity, they can still retain their sense of control and independence. Furthermore, establishing a familiar pattern of events can help transfer the schedule of a daily routine into the long-term memory portion of the brain.
What should I consider when creating a routine?
If your loved one has cognitive impairment or is in the early stages of dementia, pay close attention to his or her bathing, dressing, grooming, eating and toileting routines. At what time of day or where in the house do they occur? Does he or she have favorite clothing items or colors? What are his or her favorite foods or beverages? At this time in the disease, diligently observing them and helping maintain them can be beneficial in the long-run. If his or her dementia is in a later stage, try to recall them. The more a caregiver can facilitate activities that resonate with their loved one’s pre-dementia life, the better.
Other familiar activities and interests are important to the caregiving experience. What types of music does your loved one enjoy, or even better, which specific songs? Do they have favorite television shows or movies that bring them joy? What hobbies or leisure activities does he or she like to do? If you are not sure, start making a note of them. The more you can engage your loved one in these activities, the more secure and comfortable your loved one will feel.
What else can I do?
If you are a caregiver for a person with early dementia, hopefully this information will ease your experience. It is important that your loved one does as much as they can for themselves, for as long as they can. As the disease progresses, it is still important to maintain these routines. Eventually, your loved one will need your help. If your loved one can still perform some tasks with your assistance, try doing them together. Doing everything on your own may be easier, but it isn’t the best approach.
A routine that includes activities within your loved one’s ability level is the key. In doing so, you’ll create a predictable environment that brings some comfort and understanding in their now confusing world. Offering your loved one a day without surprises is the best way to help them expend energy, relieve anxiety, and minimize undesirable behaviors.
When you need more support…
If you find that you are at a loss of what to do next, please contact us at (850) 386-2778. We have Social Workers available to help on weekdays from 8am-5pm. They can provide a listening ear and even refer you to other resources that may be helpful. We are here to support YOU! Please do not hesitate to reach out. You do not have to do this alone!