Some people think of a routine and think of being stuck in a rut. They associate routines with predictability and boredom, but for some, routines are comfortable and familiar. For those who struggle with disabilities or with conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, routines can be vital to staying safe and healthy. For these individuals, routines aren’t boring—they’re a way of life.

When an individual’s routine is disrupted, even if it’s just a small disruption, it can throw their entire day off. Suddenly, steps aren’t being done in order or done at all, and that leads to confusion. This confusion can cause them to lash out in anger, have a breakdown, or make it very difficult for them to move on with the day. It can also lead to them skipping important steps in their routine such as taking medication or eating. 

If you care for an elderly loved one or for someone with cognitive impairment, learning about routines and their benefits can help you provide better care. Let’s take a look at these benefits and how compassionate respite care from Reliant Home Care Services can keep routines intact while you step away to take care of yourself.

a green highway sign that says "daily routine"


Who Needs Routines?

Before we look at the benefits of routines, let’s discuss who should make use of set routines in their daily lives. Some people would say that routines take away choice or freedom, but that’s not true. Knowing exactly what to do every morning can be very comforting, especially for those who have occasional memory slips or who need structure and order to their days. 

Those who are dealing with dementia, for example, may easily forget things if they don’t have structure. If left to their own devices, they may easily forget what they need to do. With a structured list of tasks, it’s typically easier for them to know what needs to be done or realize when they’ve skipped a step. Having a routine also makes it easier for those who share caregiver duties with other loved ones or respite care workers. Everyone can see the posted schedule and know what your loved one’s day looks like.

Structure also helps those who are mentally disabled or who have autism. Those who face developmental challenges can also benefit from routines because they’re set. They know that every morning, they’re going to get up, bathe, eat breakfast, watch TV for an hour, etc. These individuals may get confused when something happens that’s outside of their routine, especially if they weren’t prepared for it. They may not deal with the unexpected very well. Routines help them make sense of their day because they know what’s going to happen. 

As a care provider, routines can help you, too. New caregivers may feel overwhelmed by everything they need to do and may worry that they’re not helping their loved one enough. By working with your loved one’s care team, you can develop a routine that will eventually become second nature to you. Following this routine takes away some of the guesswork of caregiving, allowing you to focus on your loved one instead of stressing over what you need to do.


The Benefits of Routine

According to psychology experts, it can take over two months to really settle into a routine to the point that it becomes almost automatic. Of course, some people take to routines more quickly, while others may need a little more time. The person, their motivation to establish a routine, the routine itself, and other factors all contribute. This means you shouldn’t expect your loved one to take to the routine right away. Don’t get frustrated with them—remember that it takes time and that your loved one isn’t doing this out of spite. 

Getting into a new routine, especially if it includes doing things you normally wouldn’t do, can be challenging. Throw in mental conditions and other complications, and it becomes even harder. However, with patience and constant reinforcement, you and your loved one can settle into a routine that works. Once that happens, you will be able to take advantage of some of the following benefits that come from routines.

Things don’t get overlooked

When your loved one has a routine, they know the steps they need to take in the morning, at lunch, and at night. There’s less confusion or trying to remember what to do next. This means your loved one won’t overlook anything. Having a familiar routine can help those with dementia remain safe while still having some independence. Dementia affects a person’s ability to plan out tasks and successfully complete them. With an established routine, there isn’t as much planning. Your loved one can focus solely on doing the same tasks they’ve done day after day. This familiarity helps reassure them that they’re doing what they need to do.

Your loved one is safer

Routines can establish safe and secure methods of doing things. Routines may include always using the same tools that present less of a danger, such as a pair of safety scissors to open packaging instead of a knife. There will be less confusion over how to do tasks and what tools to use. Routines also create a feeling of security, reducing stress and the chance of an accident. 

a sleeping person tangled in a blanket with their arm hanging off the side of the bed

Better sleep

Having a routine at night can help people fall asleep more quickly. This is because their body learns the signs of preparing for sleep, so the brain starts to prepare to rest. This routine should include a set bedtime and specific actions such as having a cup of tea, meditating, writing in a journal, or reading for a set amount of time. The result of a bedtime routine is that your loved one will fall asleep faster and have better quality sleep. If you have challenges falling asleep due to insomnia or other issues, establishing a bedtime routine can help you, too.

Fewer meltdowns and less stress

People struggling with memory or with understanding the world around them are often taken aback when things don’t go according to plan or when they find that they don’t remember how to do something. A routine helps avoid these surprises. This results in fewer meltdowns or moments of sheer desperation and despair. Even if your loved one finds that they can’t remember how to do something, they still have a routine that tells them what they need to do. They can vocalize the issue, even if they’re frustrated with it. Being able to tell you what the problem is can go a long way to reducing how stressful the situation is.

Routines encourage activity

If your loved one tends to be fairly inactive, creating a routine can help get them up and moving. Physical activity is important for seniors, but those who are housebound and don’t get out much may find themselves spending most of the day sitting. A routine that encourages moving around will help them exercise and remain healthy. If they can have a routine that includes going out to a park on a specific day or meeting friends for coffee, that’s even better.


The Role of Routines in Compassionate Respite Care

Respite care is designed to give the primary caregiver a break. If you serve as your loved one’s primary caregiver, you know how much time and energy it takes. Even though you happily help your loved one, you also have to acknowledge the commitment it takes to be a caregiver. Sometimes something has to give, and more often than not, it’s something related to you—your hobbies, your plans, even your own health. While it happens, it shouldn’t. You need to be happy, healthy, and secure in your own life in order to provide someone with the best care possible.

Respite care gives you the time you need to take care of yourself. It also helps prevent lapses in routines. In fact, you can work respite care into a routine. If you’re having a caregiver come sporadically, make certain your loved one knows that they’re coming. You may need to start talking about the respite provider several days ahead of time, then remind your loved one a few times the day before that the respite provider will be there. This helps minimize the disruption. Make certain the respite provider fully understands your loved one’s routine and goes through it like you would. They should work closely with you and your loved one to make sure things go smoothly.

If you have respite care set up for regular visits, this can become routine. For example, maybe the respite provider comes every other Monday. You can set this up on a calendar that your loved one sees every day. This helps them know when the provider is coming. They may even get excited about having someone else visit. Again, you do want to make certain to go over the routine with the provider so they know what to expect.


Reliant Home Care Services Can Pair You with an Experienced Respite Care Provider

If you’re serving as a care provider for a loved one and need some time to take care of your own health, tasks, and other errands, reach out to Reliant to learn more about our compassionate respite care services. We can assist you on a regular or on an as-needed basis. You deserve time to rest, so don’t hesitate to call upon us when you need a break. Contact Reliant today to learn more.