If you’ve been caring for an older loved one, you know that there are really no steadfast rules for providing care. Each situation is completely different, and even if you feel like you have a good handle on what you’re doing, you should always expect the unexpected. However, the one rule that you should be always aware of is that routine is extremely important.
Routine is even more important if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia. Routines give a sense of normalcy to the day, even when normal is far from what they are going through. If there are predictable patterns within the day, someone with dementia will not have as much trouble remembering things because the short term variations from day to day become more of a long term thing. Even as their cognitive and physical abilities begin to decline, certain things remain steady. The rhythm of a day might seem like a tiny thing to you, but to someone that is experiencing a crumbling of their memories all around them, this is a huge deal.
So what does that mean for you? It means that every day should look as similar as possible to the one before it. There will be variations, of course. Things like doctors’ appointments, unexpected visitors, and trips to the store cannot always be held with the same regularity as you might like, but you should try. In all other cases, try to keep your routine firmly the same. Help your mom or dad out of bed at the same time every morning and serve them lunch at the same time. If there is a television show or two on during the day that they enjoy, try to watch it every day. Try to schedule an activity that they enjoy for the same time or same day each week, too. Research has shown that the spread of Alzheimer’s is slower when someone suffering from it is kept in a familiar spot and has familiar routines, and if your family member falls into this category, this could be of huge benefit to them.
It also establishes a need for consistent care. If you are going to hire an in-home care provider, be sure that you find a service that is steady and trustworthy. You don’t want to bring someone into your home that is not going to provide the same love and care that you do. And you don’t want to bring somebody into your home that isn’t going to be there a week from now. This is part of the peril of using an outside care service, and it’s why you should be so selective about who you hire. Speaking with a number of different services will help you get set on the right track. Just be careful here and make sure that you choose the very best person for the job. The ideal caregiver should be empathetic, loving, reliable, and highly skilled. Eventually, you will find that your caregiver has become an extended member of your family.