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Routine Activities Bring Order to the World When Living with Dementia

Posted by on 5/13/2014
Sticking to a routine can be very helpful for the person with dementia.  Rather than have to consider many choices and make decisions, which can be overwhelming, the person can stick to what is familiar and known.  Rick Phelps, a gentleman living with early-onset dementia and an Alzheimer's advocate, shares here his thoughts on routine in his day.Daily routine when living with dementia

Routine. I have said many times, every patient has a routine. You may not know it, but they do. Everything I do is according to routine. Least I think it is.

Having dementia, I suppose I do things out of character, but to me everything I do is according to my routine. I have to sit in the same place everywhere I go. I sit in the same exact spot at our camper every time. Inside or out. As soon as I get there, I have a routine, what goes first, what goes last. ...

The first thing is the to put the doggy's food and water out. I don't ever do anything before that. If I would for example set the lawn chairs out first, that simple thing would throw everything off. I always order the same thing to eat when we go out. No exceptions. I know what to order at each restaurant we go to. We don't go out often, but if it's at Red Lobster I know what I get, if it's at Burger King, same thing. Always.

I wear the same belt everyday. I have probably six belts. Haven't had a different one on in years. I drink out of the same cup every morning. No exceptions. These are just a few of the things I constantly do. Some will say, "Having dementia, how do you remember what cup to drink out of, for example?". I have no idea. I never need a menu when were eating out. Never. I never get water. Never. I always get iced tea. Always.

Sam, the dog, has to get out of our car on passenger side of the car. Where I sit. Never on the drivers side. I always tie my left shoe first. Always. I always have to have the same pillow under my arm when watching TV. Seems so senseless. But these little things and many, many more have to happen.

I let the dogs out first thing in the morning. Never before getting coffee, never before anything. I stand in the very same place while they are outside. I let them in, and then turn on the TV in the dinning room. Always. Remember, the little things are oh so important that they are done in order. I always drink milk at home when having dinner. Always. Never tea, pop, always milk. It's the little things.

Rick calls it 'little things' but truly these are each big things for the person with dementia.  If the person wants coffee, toast, and an egg every morning for breakfast, don't be concerned that the person should eat something else once in awhile. Embrace the routine that emerges and try to keep the days' activities consistent with that routine.  Also, if the person is becoming upset about something but can't communicate what it is, consider if something different happened in the routine.

Helping people with dementia to avoid the  'fear of the unknown' through routine will help them to feel safe, comforted, and allow them to function as well as possible.

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3 Comments

Maribel GarcĂ­a
Date: 5/14/2014
I like very much your posted. How can explain this to the caraguivers? Im working with elderly people and is dificult to the sons understand the importance of that.
Chris Weiss
Date: 5/17/2014
If having a routine makes it easier on the person with Alzheimers then so be it. A routine gives them a grasp on things and they should cling to that routine as long as possible.
Beth Cuer
Date: 5/18/2014
If I remember correctly, Ronald Reagan had a routine. He went to work everyday he was able to. He had an office and a routine daily. This was very beneficial in helping him and the family w/coping w/the disease. Thank you for sharing. The information is very insightful.

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