The Importance of Routine in Caregiving

As a caregiver, our to-do list each day can seem overwhelming, and it can be difficult to manage all of the things that we have to get done in a day. A routine can simplify the life of a caregiver, and make it easier for them to get everything done.

A routine can also greatly reduce stress for the person in your care. Establishing a consistent routine can help the person in your care know what’s happening next, which makes them feel more safe and secure. If the person you are caring for has dementia, routines can be even more important for their wellbeing

What Is A Routine In Caregiving?

Many people will have a daily routine when they are raising a child or when they are studying or working. Caregiving is no different. A routine simply involves doing the same daily activities at about the same time every day. This creates a day with more structure and a natural flow.

An example of a morning routine for an older adult, or someone with dementia is as follows:

8 am: Wake up, go to the bathroom, and brush teeth
9 am: Change out of pyjamas and into normal clothes, and brush hair 
9.30 am: Sit down to a prepared breakfast and cup of tea

After the morning routine is complete, the day can be less structured, with a plan for the late afternoon and evening. For example, later afternoons may be a good time to reserve for audiobooks or puzzles. Then, later in the evening, a more structured night-time routine could be in place. It can take a little while to work out a daily routine that works best for both the carer and person in their care. If this seems difficult for you, start simply, with the activities and times that you think would work best for you and the person in your care. 

The Benefits of Having a Daily Routine

As a caregiver, one of our main roles is to make life easier for the person in our care. We also want to do this in a way that is convenient for ourselves, and anyone else involved. Creating a consistent daily routine can help the day run more smoothly. A daily routine can also reduce uncertainty, arguments, and indecision, which can decrease stress for both parties. 

Some of the other key benefits of establishing a routine are as follows:

  • Doing the same simple activities at the same time each day, such as eating, washing and getting dressed can help older adults have a better sleep at night, and reduce the effects of sundowning for people with dementia.
  • A structured routine can lead to the person in your care feeling more safe and secure.
  • Predictability is good for people with dementia, as it can help them feel more stable and less confused. This applies even in the later stages when they may no longer be able to remember their day. Their bodies will still subconsciously know what’s coming next.
  • A sense of routine can help with behavioural challenges. This can be particularly important for people with dementia who can experience significant behavioural changes.
  • Establishing a daily routine can decrease feelings of anxiety and stress for both the caregiver and the person in their care. It can also help reduce disorientation for the person who is being cared for.
  • Having a routine frees up the time of the caregiver as they don’t always have to spend time working out what to do next. This means that they can spend more time creating meaningful moments with the person in their care, or alternatively having a well-needed rest.

Tips for Creating a Daily Routine

Keep it Familiar 

Familiarity helps to give a sense of calmness and comfort. It’s important to keep the routine close to the times that the person in your care is used to. Meals, washing, and other activities that will be part of the daily routine have all been a part of a person’s life for years, and this should be taken into consideration. For example, if someone has always woken up at 7 am and had toast and coffee, this can be ingrained in their subconscious, and become part of what their body remembers. It is important to keep as many familiar routines like this as possible.

Be Flexible

While daily routine is important, don’t become too fixated on sticking to a routine, and remember that sometimes flexibility is necessary. Try to keep meals, naps and medication times consistent but ensure there are some breaks throughout the day. This gives you more freedom to do an impromptu activity such as going for a walk on a nice day. 

Add Variety

Make sure that you keep some time available for activities such as physical exercise, mental stimulation, spiritual nourishment and social engagement. Be sure to vary the activities that you do and try to include activities such as hobbies that the person in your care previously enjoyed.

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