All people benefit from routine—it helps us feel in control of our lives and our surroundings, as well as provides a sense of comfort—and loved ones suffering from dementia are no different. In fact, routine is incredibly important for them. For memory care patients, any deviation from a daily regimen routine can cause anxiety as changes disrupt the things loved ones know and rely upon amid the uncertainty they feel.
The benefits of routine memory care underscore the importance of a specific care plan for dementia. Even slight modifications to the daily schedule—for example, exercising in the morning, instead of the afternoon—can lead to more stress for your loved one, and that stress tends to compound itself, thus throwing off the schedule more, which leads to more stress, and so on. A care plan for dementia can ultimately help those dealing with memory issues thrive because it ensures they spend less time anxious and more time enjoying as active a life as their conditions permit.
A care plan for dementia will vary based upon the memory care patient, but it should include several important things to drive routine and activity. Here are 10 of those crucial elements, and note, these must not necessarily follow this order (but of course, breakfast should be in the morning and dinner in the evening). Most importantly, as previously mentioned, any plan should be tailored to your loved one’s individual needs.
Meals can often be stressful for those with memory care issues; foods might not taste the same as they once did, food preparation might be challenge, and depending on the severity of the dementia, the mere physical act of eating could be more difficult. Nutrition is vital for these seniors, especially considering that memory care patients are at added risk for losing weight, so a care plan for dementia should pay special attention to meals. A good breakfast is a healthy start to anyone’s morning, and for those dealing with memory problems, it launches the routine that minimizes anxiety for the rest of the day.
2. Personal Care
Personal care can include everything from basic tasks (such as getting dressed in the morning) to hygiene (bathing, brushing teeth) to beauty (putting on makeup and styling hair). Besides maintaining health and keeping a regular schedule, personal care offers memory care patients the opportunity to feel clean, functional, and even pretty.
3. Creative Activities
Just because someone is dealing with dementia issues doesn’t mean they have lost all creativity. Painting, drawing, crafts, knitting or crocheting, writing, and playing music are wonderful activities that help memory care patients hone their creative skills and break up the monotony of the day that many seniors unfortunately feel.
Besides being an anchor to the midday, lunch is a social meal—a chance to interact with friends. Moreover, depending on the senior’s care situation, lunch could involve some sort of meal preparation, whether it’s making and serving food or just cleaning up afterward. In this way, lunch becomes more than a meal: It’s an activity that is an important driver of the day.
Staying physically active not only contributes to overall health, but also improves mental well-being and fits into the all-important routine. Exercise such as yoga, water aerobics, and gardening offer variety, but even a daily walk as part of a care plan for dementia will yield health benefits.
6. Time to Relax
A memory care patient’s day can’t be too jampacked; it should include time to simply wind down. This relaxation could include napping, reading, watching some television, or listening to music.
Although some seniors struggle with remembering things in the short term, their long-term memories might still be intact. Setting time aside in a care plan for dementia to reminisce—whether it’s looking at old pictures and videos or telling stories from the past—helps fire up the brain and improve cognitive functions. Reminiscing also provides comfort: The present may not always be certain, but good times of the past can be reassuring.
8. Intellectual Activities
Many seniors are still able to engage in intellectual pursuits, which keeps their cognitive skills sharp. Crosswords, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, and solitaire are fun intellectual activities for seniors, as are card and board games, which also introduce an important social aspect into the equation. Moreover, many favorite games and puzzles are available as smartphone applications, as well as apps specially designed for memory care patients.
The primary meal of the day, dinner offers a chance for nourishment and social interaction while also signaling the day is winding down. Many seniors look forward to not only enjoying dinner, but also preparing the meal if able.
10. Evening Activities
The time after dinner is a crucial part of a care plan for dementia because it offers a chance for loved ones to relax and prepare for the next day. Watching TV, calling or Skyping family, reading, or enjoying the company of friends helps memory care patients wind down after an eventful day.
As already stated, plans will vary by the person—aside from meals and personal care, no one suggestion is more important than another when developing a routine for loved ones. What’s most important is caregivers identify a plan that works best while being flexible but careful when making changes to it.