A young woman in a yellow cardigan is holding up a black basket full of produce. A senior man is looking in the basket, picking a piece of produce

“Dementia” is an umbrella term — it’s not one single disease. Instead, it’s a useful way to encompass several diseases that affect the brain. Diseases classified under the label Dementia can affect a person’s memory, physical abilities and thought processes — to name just a few symptoms — which, over time, can reduce their ability to successfully and safely complete Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) alone.

Today, an increasing number of adults are opting to stay in the comfort of their own homes as they age. This includes those who have received a life-altering diagnosis — of Dementia or otherwise. In fact, a National Institute of Ageing/TELUS Health Survey found that “almost 100 percent of Canadians 65 years of age and older report that they plan on supporting themselves to live safely and independently in their own home as long as possible.” For us, this makes perfect sense: a family home offers comfort, familiarity, a sense of safety and convenience — and this is especially true for a senior living with Dementia, where leaving a family home can be confusing and distressing.

One of the most common misconceptions about home healthcare is that it signifies a loss of independence. In-home care can help Seniors retain their independence, empowering them to maintain their everyday routines for as long as possible. Further, ageing in place with support from an in-home Dementia Care service is a safer and healthier choice for many Seniors. Often, long-term care facilities have a high population of Residents, overstretched team members, and a heightened risk of spreading germs (after all, Carers move between Residents constantly). There’s also the emotional toll that comes with leaving a family home. Many Seniors will experience homesickness, with stress and depression potentially accelerating their mental and physical decline.

If a loved one or another Senior in your life has received a Dementia diagnosis and they have expressed a desire to stay at home, you may have some concerns. However, by taking some measures and strategies that simplify daily tasks for the person living with Dementia (such as implementing a daily checklist), you can help them age safely and joyfully in place.

How Does Dementia Affect a Person’s Ability to Complete Daily Tasks?

Activities of Daily Living is a term used to encompass the personal tasks we do daily for ourselves. These activities include:

  • Personal Hygiene: Including bathing, nail care, hair care, and oral hygiene.
  • Food-Centred Activities: Like grocery shopping, meal preparation and eating.
  • Getting Dressed
  • Moving About the Home: Like getting out of bed or moving from an armchair.
  • Cleaning the Home

Exactly how Dementia affects Activities of Daily Living will vary between individuals and as the illness progresses. For many, reduced coordination, limited mobility, and reduced cognitive abilities make these daily tasks challenging and, on some occasions, even dangerous. For this reason, support from live-in Caregivers and their everyday involvement naturally increases.

Nevertheless, there are some ways for you to simplify some of these daily tasks, empowering your loved one to retain a sense of self and to live comfortably and independently for as long as possible while also maintaining safety at home.

A close-up of a ring bound, lined notepad. It says ‘Today’ on the notepad with one to four written below.

Making General Adjustments to Daily Routine

Of course, you’ll need to pivot the following strategies as the illness advances. But these are things you can do in the early stages of the disease to improve your loved one’s quality of life and to minimize the stress of symptoms as they present. Doing this work now will also help you adapt and augment your approach later — you’ll know what works, what doesn’t, and what can be tweaked.

Organize

First, implement an organizational strategy. This may include displaying Dementia clocks that clearly show the time and date in rooms where the person spends the most time, hanging a to-do list, and placing a daily or weekly schedule on the wall. A daily checklist may also prove beneficial. It’s essential to encourage the person to plan and log activities and dates themselves — like upcoming doctors’ appointments and when to take medications.

Empowering a loved one to keep on top of their day and week can significantly reduce feelings of helplessness, stress, and confusion — in turn, simplifying the ADLs for that day.

Streamline

Paying bills and setting up appointments may begin to prove challenging. Set up automatic deposits to prevent situations in which your loved one forgets to pay a bill, or they send too much money, or too little.

Later, another caring option is to connect with service providers to discuss transferring control of accounts to your name so that you can process payments for your loved one. This ensures that you see that utility and household bills are paid, it also lets you keep a close eye on their finances.

Foster Consistency

Create a consistent daily routine for individuals living with Dementia. Just as we embrace habit throughout the rest of our lives — we get up, shower, eat breakfast, go to work, and so on — the continuation of a steady routine that involves showering, dressing, doing light exercise, and taking a walk outside will prove very beneficial. The repetition of a daily routine for individuals with Dementia can help with memory retention. It can also help the person live independently for as long as possible, offering a sense of self-sufficiency and happiness.

Display a Daily Checklist

It’s important to refrain from bombarding or overdoing the introduction of calendars and to-do lists, as they could become more of a confusing hindrance than a benefit. However, having short, bulleted reminders in certain areas of the home can prove to be advantageous.

For example, hang a checklist by the front door that lists ‘Umbrella,’ ‘Raincoat,’ ‘House Key,’ ‘Wallet,’ and so forth as helpful reminders of what to take when leaving the house. Or place a ‘How to Use’ list by the washing machine (or other appliance), which can help greatly during moments of mental fogginess.

Simplify the Environment

A room with less clutter is safer for a person living with Dementia physically — as tidy rooms are easier to navigate — but it’s also beneficial for them as they’ll be able to find the items they need more readily.

Think about how someone will use a room and then maximize their convenience. For example, purge out-of-season clothing from a closet and place these items in storage, and leave only basic implements in the bathroom — like a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, skin cream and comb.

Pare Back Language

As the stages of the illness advance, paring back the language and terminology you use may prove beneficial. It’s important (and kind) to still give your loved one a say in how their day looks, but restricting options to some degree will make it easier for them to understand what’s being asked of them — protecting them from getting confused or frustrated.

For example, instead of asking, ‘What shall we do this afternoon?’ ask, ‘Would you like to watch a movie or garden this afternoon?’ In this way, you’re still providing an option and a sense of choice, but with thoughtful and simplified limitations that don’t overwhelm.

A senior man in a white tee-shirt and black glasses. He's looking in the mirror, brushing his teeth

Strategies for Simplifying Daily Tasks for Individuals with Dementia

Moving on, we’ll now give some more pointed and detailed strategies regarding specific Dementia Activities of Daily Living.

Generally, during the mild stages of Dementia, the person living with the illness may have challenges with memory loss, they may struggle to retain or process new information, and they may also experience issues with problem-solving and decision-making while feeling mood changes and confusion.

Knowing exactly how Dementia affects Activities of Daily Living will equip you with the skills to simplify and streamline.

Meal Preparation and Dining

It’s still important to keep the person involved at mealtimes with decision-making. While in the early stages, the person will be safe to cook and dine alone, in the middle stages of Dementia, assistance is strongly advised. Ask what they would like for dinner (providing limited options) and ask for their help with meal preparation; this can make the Senior living with Dementia feel seen and valued.

Communal, supported activities in the kitchen are ideal tasks for individuals with Dementia. A family member or one of our professional Personal Support Workers can engage and involve your loved one in laying out supplies for dinner preparation or asking for their help with easy tasks — a banana that needs peeling, or bread that needs buttered.

By paring back options and getting the Senior involved, they can still help with dinner preparations — an excellent opportunity for someone who loves cooking — but the experience is simplified, making it far safer. Overall, incorporating cooking into a daily routine for individuals with Dementia — while their coordination and mobility still allow them — creates a sense of normalcy and purpose.

Other ways to simplify mealtimes would be to secure Dementia friendly cutlery and drinking vessels, and to schedule a standing order with a grocery delivery service — our Care Managers can assist with grocery shopping, too.

Personal Care

One of the more challenging adjustments for individuals living with Dementia is eventually needing help with bathing and personal care. Seniors often find this to be the most significant encroachment on their independence and dignity.

At Integracare, each of our Caregivers undergoes an extensive interview process with tandem background screenings and reference checks. We understand that our Clients may feel vulnerable following their diagnosis. They may also experience unease with a stranger being in their home. To help alleviate these feelings, our Caregivers soon become like family, providing compassionate, person-centred care that ensures our Clients feel respected and valued.

To simplify bathing for a person living with Dementia and to create a safe and comfortable routine, prepare the room in advance. Procure tools, like grip mats and a shower or bath seat; install bars by the tub or in the shower (and we can help you to secure these tools as and when you need them). Have towels and only the necessary bottle of shampoo and conditioner at hand. Bottles with pumps are the easiest to use. Set the thermostat to keep the water at a safe and comfortable temperature.

As with bathing or showering, toileting can be one of the more difficult tasks for individuals living with Dementia to complete alone in the middle and late stages of the illness. Toileting can also understandably be difficult for Seniors living with Dementia to accept help with. Know that there are ways to empower your loved one to navigate toileting alone for as long as possible by simplifying the experience.

Try leaving the door open so that the toilet is consistently visible. Add a sign to the door that identifies it as the washroom or encourage adaptive clothing. These strategies can all significantly improve and simplify the toileting experience.

For haircare and makeup applications, offer ways for you to help out or suggest ways to simplify their personal care routine. For example, a hair clasp can keep hair looking maintained without too much fuss. And a dry shampoo can minimize the frequency of washing while keeping hair looking nice, clean, and kempt.

Cleaning the Home

In early-stage Dementia, your loved one can still complete regular cleaning activities like dusting, emptying the dishwasher and wiping mirrors. To simplify these tasks over time, reduce the number of cleaning supplies that are available, and opt for all-natural cleaners (for safety). Keep them together in one basket, and label items so that they’re easy to distinguish.

Over time, your loved one may not have the strength, capacity, or energy to vacuum the house. Our Caregivers can help with light housekeeping and high-risk chores, like cleaning windows and mopping.

A cheerful senior lady. She’s standing in a green yard. She's wearing a beige sweater with a white roll-neck underneath

Getting Dressed

In the early stage of the disease, it can be very beneficial to go shopping for comfortable clothes that your loved one likes and that are easy to put on and take off. This process empowers them to still have a say in what they wear, allowing them to stay true to their personal tastes. Non-baggy clothing that uses Velcro instead of zippers or buttons, pants with elastic waists, and pull-on shoes without shoelaces are ideal.

In time, difficulties with motor skills and joint stiffness can make the physical act of changing alone challenging, and confusion or memory loss can make it hard to know what to wear both for seasonality and occasion. Some strategies can greatly improve the dressing process. First, as with cooking, offer two or three outfit options. Label dressers and drawers — making items easier to find —and, as mentioned above, only have season-suitable clothing at hand.

You can always take photos of favourite outfits or hairstyles, too, so your loved one can easily pick out an outfit combination from a photo on days where they might be distressed by options.

When the time comes to change, take it slowly and take breaks if your loved one is expressing discomfort. Allow them to take the lead and do as much as they can for themselves.

The Takeaway on Simplifying Daily Tasks

Simplifying tasks for individuals with Dementia can take time, naturally. But you’ll soon find ways to streamline processes while keeping your loved one’s dignity and individuality in mind. Over time, you’ll find a comfortable groove that benefits both you and your loved one, as ADLs will likely begin to go smoothly with far less frustration and upset for everyone involved.

How At-Home Care Can Help

We understand that caring for a loved one who’s received a Dementia diagnosis at home can be rewarding. However, we also appreciate that being a primary Caregiver alone can be overwhelming and, at times, emotionally distressing. We also understand that often people cannot physically be there 24/7 to care for their loved one due to geography, work commitments and other family responsibilities.

That’s when private home health care from Integracare can offer crucial help. Our highly trained Caregivers and Nurses are educated in Dementia Care fundamentals. Integracare has an exclusive agreement with the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto to educate all of our Caregivers and certified Personal Support Workers in all facets of Dementia Care. We are the Dementia Care Provider of Choice. Our Caregiving team can help your loved one with ADLs, provide company and support, help with prescription medication management, patient advocacy and much, much more.

We are proud to work with our Clients and their families to formulate an individual care plan that provides your loved one with the care they need throughout their illness, and one based on their specific medical needs and abilities. We’re here to keep them safe and comfortable morning, noon, and night and to give you peace of mind. Connect with us today to learn more, and for a free in-home assessment.