As people age, there is a natural decline in physical and cognitive abilities and in independence. This creates a constant low-level buzz of anxiety over what activities these loved ones may or may not be able to accomplish in a day. This anxiety can deter loved ones from participating in any activity and can even become a crippling fear. The key to minimizing anxiety and fear is to establish a consistent routine within a loved one’s senior care. Adding structured, predictable activities to the daily and weekly routine gives loved ones a sense of control over their own well-being, despite any decline they may be experiencing.
Routine has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, increase feelings of safety and security, and improve sleep habits. The addition of a daily routine as simple as wake up, use the toilet, get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth, eat breakfast, and take medications provides a foundation that allows loved ones to feel in control of what they will accomplish for the day. It provides a natural structure and flow that will promote a higher quality of life. This is particularly true for loved ones with memory and cognitive issues. While they may not be aware of the actual days and weeks that pass, there is still a small part of them that recognizes routine and makes them feel safe and secure. The natural reduction in stress and anxiety can improve the quality of sleep they get, allowing them to be more active during the day which will also help them sleep better.
As more research has been conducted about brain function, particularly in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the question that now comes up is whether or not increasing excitement and spontaneity could be as beneficial or even more beneficial than a routine. Learning new skills and having new experiences has been shown to increase brain activity and, in some cases, even create new neural connections. This would also have the benefit of improving the quality of life mentally and emotionally, for sure, and physically depending on the activity that brought excitement to the day. But how do we know if excitement is really a benefit for the loved one in question?
Ask them, and keep the activities simple to start. Play War instead of Solitaire. Instead of walking around the block, cross the street to the neighborhood park. If the reaction is positive, offer the activity again after a few days to keep it exciting. If not, resume the routine. For caregivers and loved ones who may be in need of extra help establishing a routine, increasing excitement, or just making sure that the loved one accomplishes their own daily goals, contact Orlando senior care provider, BrightStar Care, at 1-866-618-7827 for a complimentary in-home assessment.