Routines and Structure Help Someone With Dementia Stay Grounded. When most people think of dementia or Alzheimer’s they think memory loss. The truth is, dementia is not just about memory loss. It is so much more than that. Dementia is a disruption in the brain that can affect mood and behavior as well. People often experience a feeling described as “being out of control”. This feeling can produce anxiety, stress, and depression, as the person suffering from this disease tries to make sense of the world around them.
Dementia Can Affect the Brain in Many Ways.
Someone with vascular and other types of dementia may have trouble making decisions. Memory Issues may not be a big problem. But decision making can be a challenge. Furthermore, it can have devastating effects. Making poor decisions with finances can change the course of someone’s ability to pay for much-needed care.
An aging parent with dementia may also become disorganized and become easily confused. This can lead to problems with taking medications properly. Driving a car may also become dangerous. Even operating the stove and oven can become problematic.
The Beginning Is Often Scary
In the beginning, many people will tell you they know something is wrong. And they are frightened by what is happening. When they do not know where they are it can be scary. Many people feel a loss of identity as well. “What am I supposed to be doing!”, is a familiar cry. At the same time families are trying to make sense of what is happening.
This creates a lot of anxiety and can result in what is often referred to as sundowner’s syndrome. Sundowners is associated with behavior changes such as a sudden outburst of anger or uncontrollable crying. If usually occurs later in the day when the sun begins to set. There are a lot of beliefs about why this happens.
So How Do You Handle Sundowners?
Routines and structure help to ground someone with dementia. As the memories start to fade so too does the ability to learn new things. Establishing a routine early in the disease can help someone with dementia be able to retain some of the ability to carry out basic activities of daily living such as brushing their teeth or dressing. A lot on these memories become body- memories as opposed to brain memories.
Studies have shown that people with dementia seem to have less anxiety and behavioral upsets in a home that follows a regular routine. Getting up at the same time every day, eating at regular times and even running errands at the same time every day, will all help to establish a routine that is comfortable and familiar.
Just as your two-year-old granddaughter is in a much better mood when she has her regular nap and dinner on time; a regular routine will help an aging parent with dementia to cope with the changes they are experiencing.
Give Them Comfort
The mind of someone with dementia is already experiencing a bit of chaos as they try to figure out what is going on around them. A predictable routine is comforting and they begin to know what to expect next.
So What Do I Do When the Routine is Interrupted?
Some interruptions cannot be avoided such as a trip to the doctor or the dentist. If at all possible try to plan these appointments earlier in the day. Begin when you wake the person up to remind them they will be going to the doctor today and let them know when. It is better to say, “After we eat lunch and wash the dishes” than “at 2 o’clock” because someone with dementia often has no concept of time.
Ask family and friends to schedule their visits. People who pop in late in the day unexpected or announced may cause sundowners to rear its ugly head. You will begin to know when the best time of day for visits will be and can direct visitors to those times. This way the experience is pleasant for everyone.