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The Importance of Routine in Dementia Caregiving

July 2, 2024
Caregiver and loved one in an embrace

For people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, short-term memory and the ability to retain new information are usually the first cognitive skills to be affected. Daily routines and habits can remain intact for longer as the disease progresses as they are stored more deeply as long-term memories.

Familiar activities and a consistent routine can therefore help people living with dementia cope with the challenges of memory loss, allowing them to preserve their independence for longer and discouraging difficult or dangerous behaviours. If you are supporting a person living with dementia, here’s more on the importance of having a routine and some tips for creating consistency in your daily life.


Establishing a regular daily routine can have a positive effect on both individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. Some of the known benefits of a routine in dementia care include: 

  • Reducing Anxiety and Confusion: Dementia symptoms are caused by damage to the brain which impacts memory but can also cause anxiety, agitation, aggression and dangerous behaviours like wandering. A more predictable routine builds a sense of comfort and security and can reduce some of these challenging behaviours.
  • Prolonging Independence: Losing the ability to complete everyday tasks like bathing, grooming, dressing and cooking can be incredibly frustrating for people with dementia, especially if they are used to being active and living independently. This can also lead to additional responsibilities for their caregivers. Establishing a daily routine can help dementia patients perform these tasks independently for a longer period of time.
  • Decreasing Caregiver Burnout: If you are a caregiver, a regular routine also provides structure to your day to leave more time for other demands including, kids, work, household tasks and self-care. This balance can help reduce stress and burnout and allow you to enjoy more positive interactions with your loved one living with dementia.


Routines keep things more predictable so the person with dementia isn’t overwhelmed with too many decisions, unfamiliar activities and unexpected changes. Here are some tips to help establish a consistent routine for you and your loved one:

Make a Care Plan

As much as possible, it’s a good idea to stick to consistent times for waking and sleeping, meals, medications, hygiene, physical activity and hobbies. First, determine what time of day your loved one functions best for the more challenging tasks and when they like to be active or need a rest. Think about what tasks they can manage independently and the ones they may need help with. Leave extra time in each day for transitions between activities, new demands and occasional tasks. Keep the schedule visible in a common area and update as needed.

Keep it Personalized

Try to create your routine based on your loved one’s unique needs, interests and how they have always lived their life. Do they have a favourite television show that they watch on a certain day or time, do they brush their teeth before breakfast or after, or have they gone for a walk after dinner for as long as you can remember? Creating routines that provide cues around the time of day or day of the week can help to increase feelings of security. Maintaining long-term habits can also help your loved one continue to enjoy the things that bring them pleasure.

Simplify Tasks

Break down tasks into manageable steps and follow the same sequence every time to help with memory and understanding. Lay clothes out in the order they are put on, place toothpaste next to the toothbrush and put pictures on the outside of cupboards to provide visual reminders of where items are stored. You can also use non-verbal cues like opening blinds in the morning, setting the table for dinner and turning back covers at bedtime to help signal what is happening. These cues can be particularly helpful in later stages when your loved one may have more difficulty processing words.

Be Patient

Try your best to involve the person in your care in activities around the house without rushing them or taking over when they start to struggle. Even if they don’t get the dishes completely clean or fold the laundry in a way that works for you, let them do it without correction. Offer praise and then move onto the next part of the routine. Although this will likely take more time than doing everything yourself, remaining patient will help reinforce a sense of independence and accomplishment.

Stay Flexible  

Regularly assess how your routine is working and make adjustments as you go. If the person in your care seems bored or irritable with the current plan, change the activity or take a break. As the disease progresses and your loved one’s abilities inevitably change, adjust the routine. Accommodate for these differences and make sure, above all, that your loved one remains safe. With creativity, flexibility and patience, a daily routine can help provide structure to your day. While there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to care, establishing and following routines can help create a stable and supportive environment and improve the quality of life for you and your loved one.

At VHA Home HealthCare, we can offer the support you need for your loved one living with dementia. Contact the Enterprise Health Solutions Team  at (416) 489-2500 ext. 4649 or by email at for more information. Or, visit VHA Home HealthCare’s Dementia Care Specialized Services Resource for more ways to keep your loved one safe and healthy.

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