How to Support Your Loved One With Dementia and Their Daily Routines
Updated on: 01/03/2023
To support your loved ones with dementia, one of the most helpful things you can do, both for them and for everyone involved in their care, is to ensure they have a solid routine.
As short-term memory often affected first, new routines or tasks may be difficult to remember. However, any routine or action that they’ve been doing for a long time will already be ingrained in their long-term memory, so they will be more likely to remember it.
This will give them structure and familiarity, making each day as predictable and stress-free as possible for them.
So, what can you do to help your loved one maintain their current routine?
Identify tasks that they may begin to struggle with, such as how to use the washing machine or how to prepare a meal.
Consider ways in which you can create cues that will remind them how to do those tasks – this could be a simple written document or short video that they can easily follow.
Notice when they get distracted or stop doing specific tasks. This could be a sign that they are beginning to struggle with the task and need help.
As above, you can then create visual cues to act as prompts or consider ways to help them or change the task, in case it begins to cause distress or frustration.
Consider introducing a really simple way to establish time. One of the common things your loved one may begin to struggle with is telling the time - whether that's being unable to tell the time or getting confused between night-time and day time.
Perhaps, you could write on a whiteboard to prompt them to do certain things, such as taking a shower or preparing a specific meal.
There are also clocks available that not only tell the time, but also show the day of the week and whether it's night-time or daytime. The sooner you can do this in their dementia journey the better, as they are more likely to retain new aspects of their routine if they're introduced in the early stages.
If your loved one takes medication one option could be calling them at the time they need to take their medication, or you could even use a medication dispenser that automatically dispenses the correct amount of medication at the correct time.
As your loved one’s dementia progresses, they will need you to help more and more with certain tasks. This may mean you need to develop their routine to reduce frustration and boredom from doing fewer tasks like they used to.
Here are a few things you can introduce into their routine that you can do together:
Incorporate daily walks or other exercise to keep them physically active. Encouraging your loved one to take a walk with you will not only be physically beneficial but it will also help to prevent boredom.
Try to stick to familiar places to reduce the risk of your loved one feeling overwhelmed and becoming stressed.
Encourage them to help with chores. Allow them to help with chores, such as folding clothes or washing the dishes, which will aid their cognitive and motor skills.
It will also ensure they feel involved, as feelings of isolation can creep in as dementia progresses.
Try therapeutic activities, such as doing a puzzle, arts and crafts or gardening.
Activities like this will not only help to calm your loved one, but they will also help them continue to enjoy their daily life despite being less able to do the things they used to.
Whilst your loved one’s routine will provide structure and familiarity, be mindful that they will have good days and bad days.
The bad days may be triggered by unplanned changes to their routine, such as visits to the doctors, or someone else needing to care of them because you are ill.
They could also simply be caused by frustration, as they struggle remembering how to do the things they used to be able to.
Their dementia journey may pose challenges for you both, but by being flexible, calm and reassuring, you can help your loved one along their journey.
You might also like to take a look at our guide, which includes some practical tips and advice to help you to support your loved one with some of the common symptoms associated with dementia, including memory loss and forgetfulness, walking about and mood changes.