Setting a Routine Early On with Alzheimer's
Last updated: March 2022
In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, there are small but noticeable changes in a person's behavior. You may notice that items around the house are found in new and unusual places or that the individual may have difficulty with the names of friends and family. Planning and organizing may also be a challenge for them.
As a speech-language pathologist and former primary caregiver to my Dad, I can't stress enough the benefits of finding and keeping a routine with your loved one. Most people find change difficult and you are about to experience a lot of change in the upcoming months and years.
Setting a routine early with Alzheimer's
As Alzheimer's progresses, it makes daily living activities like eating or bathing much more difficult to do. The constant adjustment to your loved one's new behaviors can be exhausting. Getting into a routine can help give you a sense of stability and structure during a time when things may seem completely out of your control.
Setting a routine early on in your Alzheimer's journey will benefit you in the long run. As the disease runs its course, long-term memory stays intact and lasts while the immediate short term is lost much more quickly.
In my personal experience
My Dad worked in healthcare and had a 9 to 5 job. He was used to getting up, getting dressed, and eating breakfast in the morning. Although there was the occasional lazy morning or two we encouraged the continuation of this routine. And it's because he had already been doing it for years.
We continued a routine he already had but also started an evening routine pretty early into his diagnosis. This evening routine consisted of dinner, then shower, pajamas, snack, and then bed. Because we were consistent, this routine lasted about 3 years. By starting early, that routine will become familiar to your loved ones and can provide a sense of comfort for them as it did my Dad.
From a caregiver's perspective, it gave me some peace of mind; almost one less thing to think about. It also helped when planning appointments and activities. I knew we could be "ready" in the morning by 9 AM so I had a time window for scheduling a doctor's appointment or going to visit my Grandmom.
Find what works best for you
Now, it may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you. It was definitely not a one-and-done deal for us. And of course, the disease will continue to progress and you will have to adapt to it.
Routines can reduce stress and anxiety for both you and your loved one. It makes it easier for the caregiver to plan their day. It's one way to keep your household organized and running. Caregiving is a tough job but hopefully, this is one strategy you can use to make it a little bit easier.
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