The Center for Brain/Mind Medicine > Support & Education

Routines & Daily Care Plans

Why Is Routine Important for Persons With Dementia?

Most people like a routine, and people with dementia are no different.  One of the greatest fears people have after receiving a diagnosis of dementia is loss of control and independence.  Loss of control and confusion can be everyday experiences for your person as short-term memory loss progresses and difficulty with orientation, sequencing of tasks, and problem-solving increase.  Setting a routine and implementing a visible plan can provide a sense of reassurance, stability, and safety. 

By anchoring each day with the same or similar schedule, including wake and sleep times and meal and snack times, your person may “learn” what to expect for each day.  Routine draws on a different type of memory, one that remains intact longer than short-term memory. 

Another advantage to a daily routine is that it can reduce anxiety for the primary caregiver as well as for the person with dementia.  Creating a more predictable environment and routine helps days go more smoothly.  Establishing a routine can lead to greater peace and security for both the person with dementia and the caregiver, creating opportunities in the day for moments of connection with each other and within ourselves.

What Is a Daily Care Plan?

A Daily Care Plan is a written or visual guide to the day’s engagements and tasks.  This can be as complex or simple as needed, and will evolve over the course of disease progression.  Daily Care Plans are often used at adult day programs, assisted living communities, and memory care units.

A Daily Care Plan can:

  • Be a whiteboard or large paper (monthly, weekly, or daily) calendar.
  • Be in a stationary place or carried by the person with dementia for comfort.
  • Be an independent reference point the person with dementia can see for themselves, allowing the caregiver to direct the person there when the inevitable repetitive questions arise.
  • Serve as a tool to invite the person to help choose activities or specific tasks.
  • Improve communication and organization between different caregivers regarding what has been done and what still needs to be done.

The overarching goal of using a Daily Care Plan is to ensure personal care needs are met each day, for both your person and for you as the caregiver.  These can include mealtimes, appointments, exercise, and whatever else is important in your day-to-day life.

Check out a printable daily care plan template by clicking here.

Tips for Developing a Daily Routine

Be realistic:  What can you realistically expect to accomplish each day?  Keep your plan as simple as possible.  It’s the quality of each day that matters, not the quantity of activities and tasks you manage to cram in.  You can work toward scheduling activities or tasks as needed.

Consider personal preferences:  How has the person with dementia managed personal care in the past?  What time did they like going to bed and getting up?  What activities did they enjoy?  What do they enjoy now?

Let them help:  Involve the person with dementia in daily household tasks to help them maintain cognitive and motor skills.  They may not get everything just right, but the goals here are having the person contribute (which reinforces self-worth and purpose) and staying physically active. 

Include physical exercise:  Even brief exercises can help prevent injury and boost mood.  Exercises could include going for a walk or doing chair exercises. 

Build rest times into the day:  Caring for someone with dementia brings many challenges and surprises.  Building in rest breaks can be crucial to give both the person with dementia and the caregiver quiet time and relaxation to recharge. 

Be flexible:  The routine is there to help you, not to control you.  If something unexpected comes up, it’s okay to be spontaneous.

Make time for connection:  Your lives have undoubtedly changed since the diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy each other’s company.  For example, introduce a once-a-week movie night when you eat popcorn and watch a favorite film together.

Remember your needs:  Scheduling time for yourself each day is not selfish—it’s essential for your overall wellness and your physical and mental health.  Even if it’s just 20 minutes having a cup of tea on your own or watching your favorite show, make sure you schedule it in.

When You Need More Help

If you find yourself frustrated and at a loss for what to do next, it might be time for reinforcements.  This could mean finding family members or friends who will commit to regular visits, hiring companionship or aide services, or enrolling in an adult day program.

To learn how to coordinate this care:

  • Connect with your CBMM Clinical Social Worker or ask for a referral from your person’s neurologist.
  • Call Alzheimer’s Association for a Care Consultation at 1-800-272-3900.
  • Connect with your local Council on Aging or Elder Services organization.