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Establishing Structure and Routine

Daily structure helps decrease the undesired behaviors that often accompany dementia — such as catastrophic reactions and Sundowner’s Syndrome. When caregivers provide a strict daily routine for their loved ones living with dementia, irregularities and anxiety can be eliminated, creating a much more peaceful existence for the entire family.

A structured, predictable environment helps relieve anxiety commonly known to trigger behavior issues in the memory impaired. Creating a daily activity routine at home can help your family member better understand and relate to their environment.

The following suggestions may help you to set up a comfortable, predictable routine for your loved one:
Schedule baths or showers on the same days of the week, around the same time of the day. If your loved one seems to accept a shower before breakfast, try to maintain this arrangement.

After breakfast and dressing, encourage your loved one to engage in daily household chores with you. Ask for help with the dishes (even if you have a dishwasher, save the cups and spoons or pans for hand-washing). Next, ask for help with the laundry (sorting socks or folding sweaters will give your loved one something to do, and also help you). Continuing to involve your loved one in such daily household tasks will keep them active, increase their self-esteem, and encourage the maintenance of motor and cognitive skills.

In between each task, offer a break for a cup of coffee, snack, or lunch (keeping in mind that meals should be served and eaten at the same time each day). And remember, it isn’t the outcome of such tasks that’s important — it’s the process. If your loved one matches a white sock with a black sock, do not correct them. Let them complete the task, praise them for their help, and move along (You can fix the socks later!).

A routine including activities that are familiar and within your loved one’s ability level is key. Through these routines, you’ll create a predictable environment that brings some comfort and understanding in their now confusing world. Offering your loved one a day without surprises is the best way to help them expend energy, relieve anxiety, and avoid undesired verbal and physical behaviors.