Getting routines right for people living with dementia
Bernadette Mossman, healthcare director at Vida Healthcare, shares her expert insights on implementing dementia care routines and highlights their significance for the physical and mental well-being of individuals with dementia
Why are routines important?
Lacking a daily routine can cause increased stress and anxiety, hinder concentration and heighten feelings of distress, especially for individuals with dementia. Therefore, establishing daily routines is fundamental for promoting consistency and managing the unique needs of each individual living with dementia.
While care homes recognise and understand the importance of implementing routines for key tasks, creating routines can be challenging for those who may struggle to express their needs, such as those living with dementia.
Establishing routines not only fosters familiarity but also provides structure and promotes independence and well-being. It’s essential to equip care home staff with the skills needed to implement consistent routines to ensure comprehensive and effective dementia care.
As people navigate their dementia journey and their care needs evolve, routines become essential. For instance, some may gradually lose the ability to perform everyday tasks independently over time, leading to confusion and increased reliance on assistance.
Early introduction of routines in a care home setting can aid in supporting these functions and prolong independence.
Beginning the day
Using cues and reminders is beneficial for establishing a daily routine for individuals living with dementia. Maintaining consistency, like starting the day with a shower, helps prevent stress. Simple cues, such as leaving out a toothbrush and putting clothes out for them in the order they need to put them on, have a significant impact on fostering independence as the person with dementia knows what to expect.
Creating a daily routine for someone living with dementia should prioritise aligning with their personal preferences and past experiences. Incorporating small activities, like a walk after lunch or making a cup of tea, can have positive results by promoting independence for a longer duration.
Care home menus should be diverse and visually appealing, with the inclusion of traditional and nostalgic meals. Engaging residents in table-setting routines encourages a sense of purpose and inclusion. Creating a calming dining experience supports nutritional intake, contributing to residents’ overall quality of life.
Bedtime and circadian rhythms
Residents with dementia often experience sleep disturbances and circadian rhythm disorders. Creating a safe and comfortable bedtime environment is crucial for ensuring uninterrupted sleep. Vida Healthcare’s care homes provide for the unique needs of dementia residents with specially chosen decor and sensory features to help alleviate confusion.
Vida Court, the newest of Vida Healthcare’s three homes, has integrated circadian lighting, which aims to reduce agitation whilst maintaining routine.
Establishing routines for individuals with dementia is key for predictability, structure and a sense of safety. While challenges exist for care home operators, encouraging routines is instrumental in providing sustained support.