We hear this often: “I am the caretaker of a loved one with dementia. My life is busy! I feel that I do not have time to take care of myself, but I also know that I won’t be able to properly caretake if I let myself go. What can I do to ensure that I engage in self-care?” 

Some self-care happens by habit, and sometimes it takes a more deliberate effort, and this may mean making it a priority and scheduling it in.

Before we talk about how to wedge slots for self-care into a busy caregiver’s schedule, let’s look at the benefits of routine and scheduling in dementia caregiving. 

The Benefits of Routine in Dementia Caregiving

Consistency is especially important in dementia care.

Routine provides structure both in the life of the person with dementia and the caregiver.

When the days are unpredictable and unstructured, it can lead to agitation and fear in individuals with dementia

Routine and structure also help to build a sense of security and safety in individuals with dementia.

It promotes a sense of having more control in life, which supports the formation of healthy habits, and encourages the individual with dementia to maximize their physical and cognitive abilities – making an impact on health, wellness, and overall quality of life. 

Routine is beneficial for the caregiver, as it diminishes stress (in both the caregiver and the individual with dementia).

Routine prevents burnout, and when planning is adhered to, it provides an opportunity for the caregiver to schedule some self-care. 

How to Create a Caregiver’s Schedule

The most important objective of your schedule as a caregiver is to ensure that the safety and physical needs of your loved one with dementia are met.

Self-care is vital to the caregiver, so this should also be a part of scheduling. 

Remember this:

“It is not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” – Lena Horne 

Create your care schedule around the daily activities that your loved one requires and needs, but also schedule activities during the time frames when they function at their best. 

Remember that a rigid schedule is not necessary.

Flexibility is key to ensuring that the schedule works for both you and your loved one – it gives you the ability to deal with unpredictable events and to take breaks and engage in self-care. 

Here is a sample schedule:

Morning (7:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)

  • Morning hygiene routine and dressing (bathing, brushing teeth, dressing)
  • Breakfast preparation, eating, and clean up 
  • Engage in an enjoyable activity (crafts, art, anything that the person with dementia loves)
  • Break and quiet time (One hour for both the loved one and the caregiver) 

Afternoon (12:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

  • Lunch preparation, eating, and clean up 
  • Engage in an enjoyable activity (crafts, art, anything that the person with dementia loves)
  • Engage in physical or outdoor activity (walking, going to a park, visiting a friend or neighbor)
  • Break and quiet time (one hour for both the loved one and the caregiver)

Evening (4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.)

  • Dinner preparation, eating, and clean up
  • Wind down for bedtime (enjoy a relaxing activity)
  • Evening hygiene routine – prepare for bedtime
  • Relaxing bedtime routine (listen to music, read a book)
  • Break and quiet time (starting at 7:30)

Remember to engage your loved one in any activity that they can partake in (such as cooking or cleaning).

Let them help you, this boosts their sense of independence and wards off stress. 

Breaks and quiet time must always be included in the routine.

This is a quiet time for the one that you care for, and a break for you to engage in self-care. 

What are your self-care goals?

Create a checklist around your needs and goals.

You may want to take a bubble bath, take a walk in nature, visit or talk with a friend, write a journal, participate in yoga, or drink more water.

List these goals and create a checklist to ensure that you take care of yourself! 

Plan for Respite Care

Caregivers need help! 

When your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, breaks and quiet time for you may include time away for more extended periods (i.e., an entire afternoon versus an hour), but as the abilities of the person with dementia change, you will need to work respite care into your schedule to give yourself ample self-care time. 

Close friends and family members are great options for respite care (in or out of the home).

An afternoon out can include lunch, time at a park, shopping, or engaging in a craft – or a shared interest.

Create a calendar of these events for your loved one to look forward to

Respite programs are available in most communities.

If you are in the Round Rock, Georgetown, or Austin, Texas area, we have listed some local Respite Providers and Programs for Adults with Dementia on our blog.

We have created a Respite Program to give caregivers a needed and welcome break.

If you are seeking help a few hours a day or just a few days a month, we’re here to help.

When we care for ourselves, we can care better for our loved ones.

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