Family members who care for seniors with memory loss are keenly aware of the challenges and frustrations they may face each day. Those whom they care for can also struggle with navigating changes in their lives that they don’t understand. For caregivers, it can seem like every day is a repeat of the last.
Establishing a flexible routine for seniors with memory loss can have benefits for them and their primary caretaker. Find out more on how routine helps and how you can establish one.
How Routine Can Help Seniors With Memory Loss
People like some predictability in their daily lives. Constant change can be stressful, especially for seniors with progressive memory loss. That’s true whether the memory loss is due to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other contributing factors.
For these seniors, a structured routine can help them get through the day with less confusion, anxiety and agitation that often accompanies progressive memory loss. That, in turn, can help the senior’s caretaker to better cope each day.
There may be periods in which the senior’s memory loss seems to plateau instead of progress. When you’re assisting a senior with memory loss, it can be difficult to gauge how and when circumstances will suddenly change.
Establishing a flexible daily routine for seniors with memory loss can have benefits for them and their primary caretaker family member. Additional organization may become necessary as the senior’s life becomes increasingly dependent on the caretaker. That’s a good reason to get started on a daily routine early. That requires some planning.
Categories of a Sensible Daily Routine
A workable routine takes the senior and their caretaker into consideration to help days flow more smoothly.
Every plan should include some fixed, non-negotiable tasks, including:
- Hygiene needs
- Regular nourishment and hydration
- Medication dispensation
- Time for sleeping and waking
- In the later stages of memory loss, seniors may spend more time sleeping during the day and less time sleeping at night due to several factors, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Allow time for medical appointments and related activities, such as haircuts and styling.
Build time in the schedule for unplanned events such as stop-in guests and similar events.
Socialization is important for family members with memory loss and their caregivers. If the individual being cared for is capable of socializing, try to fit in some time for it a few times each week.
Plan ahead and ask a family member or friend to come to your home at a scheduled time. Explain to guests ahead of time that plans may change at the last minute or visits may be cut short due to unforeseen events.
Recreation and Exercise
A daily walk can offer socialization opportunities, a change of scenery, and exercise for the senior and the caretaker. Build in some time for it each day, if possible. Don’t forget to hydrate after exercise. If walking isn’t an option, the National Institute on Aging offers other light exercise suggestions for seniors with memory loss.
5 Ways to Create a Daily Routine for Seniors With Dementia
The following are considerations to keep in mind when creating a daily plan.
1. Keep It Flexible
There’s no place for perfection in carrying out planned daily routines. Creating a plan isn’t about unsustainable and unrealistic hard rules. Even with a well-established routine, there will be days when it goes astray.
Structured routines should be fluid enough to allow for changing circumstances and difficult days. Consider the daily routine a practical guideline to follow and be flexible enough to make adjustments as needed.
2. Consider the Senior
It’s important to consider the senior when developing routines. Structured tasks coupled with enjoyable activities can help limit agitation and increase contentment of seniors with memory loss, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
When creating a routine, take into account the senior’s:
- Likes and dislikes
These are likely to change from day to day and over time as memory loss progresses. That requires some flexibility on the part of the caregiver.
3. Include Activities and Hobbies
Think about activities and hobbies the senior once enjoyed that can keep them safely occupied. If they were a collector of sewing thimbles, rocks, or coins, they may still enjoy handling and sorting through these items.
Photo albums and books with images of art or other such materials can help keep a person with memory loss occupied. Some television time may be another option, as long as the program doesn’t feature complicated plots or disturbing images. Listening to music from their favorite era can also help soothe seniors with dementia.
4. Include Time for Conversation and Reflection
The caretaker’s time may be largely taken up by completing all the daily tasks a household and a family member with high needs requires. Yet, it’s important for caretakers to take time with the senior just to sit and talk while doing nothing else.
Some seniors with memory loss may not remember what they did an hour before, but can and like to recall memories from long ago. Try not to push conversation. It’s best to let them guide the conversation.
Some of the memories seniors with memory loss think they recall may not be their own. It’s OK to let them think they are, though.
5. Include Time for the Caregiver’s Own Life Needs
While having a predictable daily routine has its benefits for seniors with dementia and their family caregiver, there can be a downside. Caregivers who seek some variety, fun and adventure in their lives can feel short changed by sticking to a tight schedule.
A family caregiver needs their own free time to explore the outside world without worrying about their family member with memory loss, or worse, leaving them alone to fend for themselves.
>> Read “7 Signs of Caregiver Burnout”
Options for Family Members Caring for Seniors with Memory Loss
There are options for caretakers who need time and distance away from the seniors for whom they provide care.
Engage Trusted Family Members and Friends
Caregivers don’t have to leave the house to get some time away. Even spending time away in another part of the house, reading or calling friends or support group members can provide some relief.
Prepare for Unplanned Occurrences
It’s good to prepare for events that can pop up that make it impossible for caregivers to watch over their family members with dementia. Caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed can benefit from taking some time away from their family members for short or long periods of time.
Find Outside Help for Short-Term Care
Carefully research outside senior care facilities that offer reliable and trustworthy short-term respite services for people with memory loss. Then, schedule a consultation with the facility to learn about various short- and long-term options you can rely on if the need arises. It’s best to do this before you may need it. If caregivers to family members with memory loss have to recover from surgery or other illness, or just need days away, there will already be a plan in place.
Download The Complete Guide to Dementia for CaregiversDownload the Guide
Find a Comfortable Routine in a Senior Lifestyle Community
A regular routine can be good for the caretaker and their family member who has progressive memory loss. Exercising flexibility as circumstances change is a critical component of success in having a routine.
Senior Lifestyle communities are ready to help. With specialized care, programs and activities, your family member will be safe and secure during their everyday life. We’ll also take care of their everyday needs.