Caregivers: Do You Have a Weekly Plan for Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s?

dreamstime_xs_47667000Being a caregiver can be both an incredibly rewarding and highly stressful job, especially when your family member or loved one suffers from progressive dementia like Alzheimer’s. As you settle into your role as a caregiver, developing a weekly plan can help you instill a routine in your household as well as encourage you to add in fun activities that your loved one will enjoy.

Why Develop a Weekly Plan

You may have never needed to plan your days or your weeks before, but life will change dramatically when you begin caring for someone with dementia, especially as your loved one’s condition progresses. When they reach the intermediate stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia, they may struggle with organizing their time. For example, they may forget to eat meals, have trouble going to bed, and get bored or distracted easily.

Putting together a weekly plan can introduce a routine of meals, activities, chores, and rest that will make life run smoother for both you and your loved one. Additionally, without a plan in place, it is easy to either add in too many activities, which could stress and tire out your loved one, or to not consider new activities. You might just decide to stay at home, which could lead to boredom and increased isolation. A weekly plan lets you both create a healthy routine and know when you can deviate from it.

Tips to Consider When Devising a Weekly Plan

As you sit down to create your weekly plan, keep these tips in mind:

  • Give yourself and your loved one ample time for each activity. There’s no need to rush through breakfast, bathing, or any other activity. Give yourself time so you can enjoy the experience with your loved one.
  • Try to keep meals and rest periods consistent. Many individuals with Alzheimer’s appreciate a lot of consistency in their routine. Scheduling rest at the same time each day, in particular will make taking naps, going to bed, and getting up in the morning easier.
  • Make a note of how your loved one feels about different activities. If you notice that your loved one enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles but struggles on crosswords, then add more time for jigsaws in the future and take crosswords off the agenda.
  • Dementia is a progressive disease, so your loved one’s abilities and preferences may change over time. For example, your loved one might have loved doing 500-piece jigsaw puzzles last year but now struggles and grows frustrated with them. It might be time to switch to 250-piece puzzles or a different activity altogether, like listening to music. Be aware of your loved one’s attention span and physical strength, as these can change over time as well.
  • Be flexible. Every day presents different challenges and opportunities as a caregiver. Maybe you had a day at the park planned, but your loved one is in a bad mood. Don’t force the trip to the park just because it’s on the schedule. Instead, take a measure of your loved one’s mood and well-being and adapt as necessary.

Write Your Plan

It may be possible to keep your weekly plan in your head, but we suggest you write it out. You don’t necessarily need an hour by hour schedule – though this does help some caregivers – but writing down a list of activities and noting meal and rest periods can be a big help. If you live in a household with others, posting the weekly calendar can help your family know how each day will go, when to expect meals, and when you will be busy with activities. Writing down meal, rest, and medication times can also allow other family members to pitch in when you need a break!

You can write the calendar on a reusable whiteboard, on a paper calendar, or even keep it in electronic form, which can let your extended family see it as well.

Over time, you’ll get develop your own best practices and decide how you like to create your weekly plan. At Sunshine Care, we encourage you to regularly try new activities that will make each day special for you and your loved one. Activities can include things like:

  • Gardening in the spring and fall
  • Watching a movie
  • Taking a walk around the neighborhood
  • Going to a local park and feeding the ducks
  • Eating out at a favorite restaurant
  • Listening to old music
  • Telling stories
  • Knitting, embroidering, or cross-stitch
  • Doing puzzles – jigsaw, crossword, word searches
  • Doing arts and crafts
  • Making holiday decorations
  • Baking
  • Reading books or the newspaper
  • Looking at photographs
  • Drawing, painting, or coloring
  • Listening to an audiobook or podcast

At Sunshine Care, we post our monthly activities calendar, which includes lots of regular weekly activities to provide consistency as well as special, unique events to keep things fun!

If you are new to caregiving and are struggling to develop a routine with your loved one, we invite you to join us for our free monthly caregiver support group. All caregivers are welcome!


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