Imagine worrying about forgetting your past while also having a hard time remembering new events and information. Pretty scary, right? This is something that many individuals with dementia face every day. Fortunately, routine and consistency may help alleviate some of these challenges. The Alzheimer’s Society states that, while stimulation is important when a loved one has a cognitive disease, regular routines or rituals will help support feelings of security and mitigate confusion and anxiety.
Try these 3 rituals to help your loved one:
- Establish consistent routines. Keep a schedule similar to the one your loved one maintained before dementia. This can include going to bed and waking up, eating meals, going on walks and bathing at the same time every day. Stay flexible when possible; the University of Wisconsin recommends that you allow for rest periods throughout the day as some people with dementia tire easily.
In addition to daily routines, you can also establish weekly routines to add some variety. For example, eat out on Thursdays or participate in a craft group at the local senior center on Saturdays.
- Establish helpful reminders. Losing sense of time is common in the early stages of dementia. Your loved one may feel stressed or anxious if unable to remember recent activities or upcoming plans.
Use memory aids and gentle reminders to help your loved one feel more secure. Examples include:
- Hanging calendars in prominent locations, like in the bedroom or living room.
- Posting each day’s routine next to the calendars. Wait to post each day’s new schedule until the morning of to avoid confusion.
- Placing digital clocks with large faces around the home.
- Using seasonal or thematic décor to remind your loved one of upcoming holidays and traditions.
- Setting out new clothes and removing dirty clothes while your loved one bathes. If dressing is troublesome, lay out the clothes in the order they should be put on.
- Labeling doors and drawers. Put signs on doors that indicate where they lead, such as “bathroom,” “linen closet” and “bedroom.” Mark drawers and cupboards in the kitchen so your loved one can find items.
- Keep the quirks. When possible, follow the patterns that your loved one established prior to cognitive decline to help maintain a sense of normalcy. For example, keep going to church on Sundays if practicing a faith was important to your loved one. In the morning, help your loved one bath, dress, put on shoes and eat breakfast in his or her usual order. Try introducing familiar scents and objects to encourage positive behaviors. For instance, use your loved one’s favorite soaps and towels in the bathroom. If the person in your care followed a menu like “taco Tuesdays” or “meatloaf Wednesdays,” consider honoring those rituals, too.
Are there activities that your loved one has always enjoyed? Consider mixing them into the routine. For instance, if your loved one plays an instrument, allow him or her to practice or listen to some favorite music. If the person in your care was a homemaker, folding laundry, mixing ingredients in a bowl or working on simple crafts may be enjoyable.
When the environment is predictable and structured, it can help reduce anxiety and calm your loved one. Start with the three tips above to help your loved one understand and relate to his or her environment more positively.