“People are creatures of Habit”People are creatures of habit. We are able to understand others’ emotional states, show empathy and are able to solve day-to-day problems. Although these tasks may not seem difficult, relative to the rest of the animal kingdom, these are extremely complex and intricate behaviours. Every day we act out these complex behaviours and many more, but how do we manage to do all of this?The answer is habits. Habits allow us to get through the day and perform tasks that would be otherwise mentally demanding. When we first learn a behaviour it requires a great amount of concentration and focus, however when we have repeated the task several time it becomes easier and eventually we become ‘Habituated’ towards that behaviour. Take learning to drive for example. When we begin we must engage ourselves mentally to learn all the activities involved in driving, then once we have practised, made a few mistakes and learnt from them, it starts to become easier and easier. After a while the complex task of driving almost becomes second nature to us and we become habituated to it. We do this with almost every behaviour in our day-to-day lives, whether it’s making our breakfast, learning the protocol of restaurants or engaging in conversation. We learn how to do these activities and are then prepared for the next time we must complete these tasks.
However what happens when something changes? What do we do if we buy a new car and suddenly the switch for the headlights are on the other side of the wheel? Or the windows are electric rather than wind down? We must adapt our behaviour to integrate these changes. This is something people suffering with Dementia typically struggle with.
“We understand the symptoms of dementia”
At Stanfield nursing home, we understand the symptoms of dementia and are able to tailor our care around individual’s needs.
Dementia typically affects a person’s ability to form new memories and develop new habits, however many habits before the onset of the disease tend to remain in the memory for a long time. At Stanfield we understand routine is particularly important for residents who are experiencing dementia. Routine allows them to complete tasks without too much demand on them mentally. Routine activities may include such simple things like: brushing teeth before going to bed or drinking a cup of tea before having a wash.
Our specialist carers understand that when supporting someone with dementia their behaviour may change week-by-week or even day-by-day. Because of this it is important to keep a degree of flexibility, whilst maintaining important day-to-day routines and activities. Important routines include:
- Hygiene rituals: such as brushing teeth, having a bath, washing hands before dinner
- Food Preparation, eating and washing up
- Little jobs around the home, such as making tea or tidying away books
By involving our residents in day-to-day routines it can engage their habitual memories, which are long lasting. It may be possible to communicate in meaningful conversation for longer as other memories may be associated with these activities.
The needs of our residents are crucial, but what about the carer?
Carers are human like anyone else and are creatures of habit themselves. Supporting people with cognitive impairment is demanding work and requires our carers to live in the moment and respond to the needs of our residents accordingly.
Conflict can arise when carers attempt to maintain their own routine, such as having lunch at 12 o'clock, which may not fit a resident’s needs. It is the job of colleagues and senior staff to review the situation and identify what should be done and how to go about doing it. At Stanfield, although we respect our hard working and committed staff, we see the needs of our residents as paramount and ensure that everything which can be done to make the resident happy is done, before our staff’s requirements are fulfilled.
A Guide to Maintaining Routine- Nursing Home
- Determine routines. A routine is something a person does regularly, on a day-to-day basis, something that they are comfortable and familiar with. This might include having a morning shower or have a cup of tea with breakfast. However new activities, like going on holiday with distant family, may be unsettling for a person suffering with dementia.
- Sticking to important rituals. If someone is used to a certain activity, such as eating their dinner in their dining room whilst listening to the radio, by continuing with this habitual behaviour it may be a cue to other positive memories the person may have associated with that activity.
- Preventing distractions and narrowing choices. This might involve watching one or two television channels asking the person whether they would like to wear a particular outfit rather than showing them all the various options.
- Change happens. Someone with dementia may like to help to make a cup of tea as one of their activities, however as the disease progresses this may no longer be possible, for safety reasons. It may be possible to adapt this routine so they might only pour the milk, thereby still maintaining the routine whilst remaining safe.
- Flexibility. It is important to stay flexible, as it is impossible to keep to a strict schedule every day. Just start the routine again the following day.
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