Creating and implementing an elderly care plan for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia presents challenges and demands that go beyond those of care plans for seniors not coping with this type of condition. Understanding this allows you to step away from the idea of trying to fit your parents around the care, and instead fit the care around your parents.
One of the best ways you can do this is by establishing and maintaining structure and routine in as many areas of your care plan as possible.
The Importance of Structure in a Care Routine for Seniors with Dementia
Part of the progression of dementia is an increased sense of confusion and feeling out of control.
Not feeling like they understand what is going on or that they have no control over their surroundings, their actions, or what is happening to them can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to anxiety and other negative consequences.
Establishing structure and routine creates predictability, allowing your seniors to know what is happening and what is coming next so that they feel better about the progression of their day.
2. Memory Strengthening
While there is no cure for dementia, research has shown that there are ways to potentially slow the progression of the disease so that seniors remain functional and largely independent for longer.
One of these ways is by stimulating and strengthening the memory skill areas of the brain. Just like when you were cramming for a test when you were in school, going over the same information over and over again triggers the memory receptors of the brain and encourages them to not only retain the information, but recall it later. This recall further strengthens the brain.
Structure and routine are like tiny workouts for your parents’ memory skills, encouraging them to remember what comes next in the sequence of the day and fostering stronger, quicker retention and recall of other information as well.
Particularly in the moderate to advanced stages of the disease, confusion, disorientation, and anxiety can result in combative and disruptive behavior as the seniors act out, trying to gain control of the situation and protect themselves from the perceived threat of the confusing situation.
By offering structure, routine, and predictability, you and your parents’ elderly health care services provider can help to reduce anxiety, controlling these combative behaviors and keeping everyone in the care arrangement safer and more comfortable.
How to Create and Maintain Structure When Caring for Seniors with Dementia
Some of the ways you can create and maintain structure in your daily care with your seniors include:
1. Maintain the Layout of Rooms
Do not change around the furniture, trade out throw pillows, or add items whenever possible.
Something as seemingly minor as a new painting or a blanket being in a different location can be extremely confusing for a senior with dementia and make them feel like they are not in their usual surroundings.
2. Establish a Schedule for the Day
Do the same things in the same order every day.
This goes for:
What time they wake up
When they eat breakfast
What dishes they use
When they have crafts or other entertainment
When they bathe
When they go to bed
3. Look the Same
Stimulate memory, create predictability, and foster a sense of familiarity and comfort by looking the same as much as possible when you see your seniors.
Try to avoid drastic changes in your hair color, cut, or style, do not go back and forth between wearing eyeglasses and contacts, and try to wear similar clothing.
Your parents will take these cues and use them to trigger memories of who you are and what you do as they get into the latest stages of the disease.
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