Daily habits to help you keep your independence after a dementia diagnosis
A dementia diagnosis can be daunting, and coming to terms with it can be extremely difficult. However, it’s a common misconception that people with early-stage dementia cannot maintain their independence. Many people with dementia maintain their independence by implementing daily habits and routines specific to their situation - and you can too.
Here, we discuss habits you can implement to maintain your independence.
Build a routine
Building a routine - and sticking to it - is one of the best things you can do to combat dementia. Although dementia causes issues with short-term memory, the habitual part of your brain remains high functioning.
Think of taking a shower. More often than not, you aren’t actively thinking about shampooing your hair or washing your body, and yet, you do it instinctively. During activities you have done repeatedly, the habitual part of the brain takes control - and this is what you want to take advantage of.
The question is, how detailed should your routine be?
For tasks that you do on a regular basis, be as specific and strict as possible without compromising on your own health. For example, eat at a specific time each day and follow each meal with other tasks, such as clearing the table and washing the dishes.
Strict adherence to these simple tasks may seem over the top but ingraining routines will help you maintain your independence even as the dementia progresses, as you’ll often be able to complete them automatically and without asking for help. These tasks will eventually become natural and you will barely have to think about them.
Implement a calendar system
Whether analog or digital, add all of your daily tasks to a calendar at the start of each day or week. This way, you are less likely to forget tasks and appointments and you’ll be able to manage your own time better.
One advantage of using a digital calendar (for example, Google Calendar) is the ability to share it with your caregiver/s and loved ones. This allows them to stay across your daily tasks and empowers them to organise their own activities to fit in with your schedule.
Want to learn more about Google Calendar? Watch this YouTube video:
Move your body
It is proven that regular physical activity helps maintain cognitive function. Cognitive function is your ability to think, plan, reason, remember and make decisions. Therefore, maintaining cognitive function is key to maintaining your independence.
You may be asking, what kind of physical activity? Any way that you move your body! Walking about your house or going around the block, gardening, cleaning, even dancing to your favourite songs!
Depending on your ability, there are many options out there. So be creative but don’t push yourself too hard. Just get moving!
Maintain social connection
Living with dementia can be lonely. One person explained this clearly to the HelpMate team:
“Family and interaction is the most important thing. I can endure any other physical or mental pain, but I can’t deal with the lack of social interaction.”
So, maintain contact with your family or friends on a regular basis and make connections with people.
Living with dementia can make conversations intimidating.
Margaret, an elderly woman with dementia, felt embarrassed when her family and friends would call because she could never remember what they talked about the last time they spoke.
She came up with a solution: during and after calls, she would make notes on the conversation and keep track of what was going on in the lives of her friends and family. So, the next time they called, she was completely up to speed.
This deepened her connection with those closest to her and gave her a tremendous sense of control, allowing her to maintain her independence and lead a happier, and healthier life.
Living with dementia can be difficult. But it doesn’t need to mean the end of your independence. These habits and routines will help you stay independent for longer.
Keen to learn more? Check out these resources from Dementia Australia or feel free to respond to this post or write to us and we’ll reach out to you!