Daily routines can be enormously helpful for both the caregiver and the individual living with dementia. Creating a schedule for the days and even weeks ahead allows the caregiver to not have to waste time trying to figure out what to do each day so therefore more time can be spent focussing on meaningful and enjoyable activities.
Organising each day and writing that down is a great place to start. Structured and pleasant activities can often reduce agitation and improve mood which is hugely beneficial. Have a plan but do remember that to keep someone with dementia stimulated and responsive it will be necessary to continually explore, experiment and adjust the activities you do.
In the early stages of dementia involve the person in the decision making, make making the plan an activity in itself. As the condition progresses there may be less input but by then you will hopefully have a clear understanding of what they do and don’t enjoy doing.
Before making a plan, consider:
- The person’s likes, dislikes, strengths, abilities and interests
- How the person used to structure his or her day
- What times of day the person functions best
- Ample time for meals, bathing and dressing
- Regular times for waking up and going to bed (especially helpful if the person with dementia experiences sleep issues or sundowning)
Make sure to allow for flexibility within your daily routine for spontaneous activities.
As the dementia progresses, the abilities of a person with dementia will change, with creativity, flexibility and problem solving, you’ll be able to adapt your daily routine to support these changes.
Checklist of daily activities to consider:
- Household chores
- Personal care
- Creative activities (music, art, crafts)
- Spontaneous (visiting friends)
- Intellectual (reading, puzzles)
Writing a plan
When thinking about how to organise the day, consider:
- Which activities work best? Which don’t? Why? (Keep in mind that the success of an activity can vary from day-to-day.)
- Are there times when there is too much going on or too little to do?
- Were spontaneous activities enjoyable or did they create anxiety and confusion?
Don’t be concerned about filling every minute with an activity. The person with dementia needs a balance of activity and rest, and may need more frequent breaks and varied tasks.
Below is an example of a daily plan
- Wash, brush teeth, get dressed
- Prepare and eat breakfast
- Have a conversation over coffee
- Discuss the newspaper, try a craft project, reminisce about old photos
- Take a break, have some quiet time
- Do some chores together
- Take a walk, play an active game
- Prepare and eat lunch, read mail, wash dishes
- Listen to music, do crossword puzzles, watch TV
- Do some gardening, take a walk, visit a friend
- Take a short break or nap
- Prepare and eat dinner, clean up the kitchen
- Reminisce over coffee and dessert
- Play cards, watch a movie, give a massage
- Take a bath, get ready for bed, read a book
Remember, if the person seems bored, distracted or irritable, it may be time to introduce another activity or to take time out for rest. The type of activity and how well it’s completed are not as important as the joy and sense of accomplishment the person gets from doing it.