a senior couple laughing and enjoying cups of coffee

The Importance of Routines for People with Dementia

Some people find comfort in routines. The unknown can shake things up a bit too much sometimes, and having to constantly adjust and adapt can be exhausting, especially for a person with dementia. Establishing and sticking to a routine has proven to be incredibly helpful for those needing memory care. The brain doesn’t have to work quite as hard on a daily basis when familiar activities occur at the same time regularly, leaving more mental capacity for your loved one with dementia to have meaningful conversations, reminisce about the memories they’re still holding dear, and be present with you.

Why It’s Important to Have Routines

a group of senior women enjoying breakfast together

Short-term memory is the first to go in the early stages of dementia. When your senior loved one knows what to expect each day, stress and anxiety are significantly reduced. The senior will be able to anticipate what’s coming next; therefore, they’re able to take on more independence in caring for themselves. This sense of autonomy increases their confidence and self-esteem, making them more likely to engage in genuine interactions with the people around them.

Establishing a Daily Care Plan

1. Start with a framework based on time of day.
a senior couple enjoying breakfast together in their memory care apartment
Begin with the times your senior wakes up and goes to bed, then factor in the times your senior eats meals throughout the day. Fill in the rest from there.

2. Fill in the gaps with enriching activities. …Like physical fitness! Exercise is important for anyone’s overall well-being, so schedule 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Now that you’ve got the basics down — sleeping, eating and exercising — fill any free time with other enriching activities the senior may enjoy. The most active hours of the day for a senior with dementia are after breakfast until around sundown, so plan activities that require more mental engagement, like socializing, creating and otherwise concentrating, during those hours. If they’re a faith-based person, perhaps it would make them feel happy and fulfilled to factor in time to attend worship. If they’re an artist, schedule time for them to create. If they have a variety of hobbies, that’s great, but don’t mix it up too much. Perhaps your schedule looks something like this:

an example schedule of a routine for memory care patients

See how many activities repeat at the same time each day and occur multiple times a week? This will help a senior requiring Memory Care establish a routine and optimize the hours of the day when their mental capacity is strongest. Of course, there’s room for variation, but keep a simple structure of a schedule in place, then add things like doctors’ appointments, social events, and activities that happen less frequently, like going to the hair salon as needed. Eagle Senior Living offers several services and amenities to fill your senior’s spare time with fulfilling and enriching activities.

3. Create a visual asset for the senior to reference. You might have to get a little crafty here, but if you’re not artistic, no need to worry, you can create this on the computer too. Your senior needs some sort of visual representation of their schedule. This will help them establish the routine at first, then they may find they don’t need it as they get comfortable with their regularly scheduled activities. If their memory continues to decline, they may come back to it for reference. Familiar objects a senior with dementia can return to provide comfort, safety and reassurance.

4. Stick to it!
a senior man walking outside with his adult daughter
Consistency is key. Help your loved one with memory problems establish a routine and daily care plan, and it may even provide you, the caretaker, with some structure and routine as well. You’ll get the chance to see what positive effects result from routines: mental calmness, increased ability to focus, and room to make the in-between hours count.

By including exercise and mentally stimulating activities in the senior’s schedule, you’re promoting overall wellness, and those effects will linger far longer than the memories of the actual activities will. Eagle Senior Living does have Memory Care and Assisted Living options for when the time comes, but even in our Independent Living residences, your loved one will have access to all the enriching activities offered on campus, as well as having their home maintenance taken care of, a meal plan, fitness center, and all the elements of a well-rounded schedule made easily accessible to them.