The hallmark feature of dementia is memory loss. Supporting memory loss must therefore be a high priority in dementia care.
This blog is about how we can use practical ideas such as using an agenda to support memory loss. An agenda offers the benefits of providing important details, and predictability, related to daily routines.
Many of us use an agenda to support our memory. Think about it – we use an agenda, yet we don't have dementia. Why then do we not do the same for those who are challenged by memory loss? Not everyone will want or need an agenda. BUT if it helps – let's set each person up for success with details about the day.
Agendas for those living with dementia
- Who should use an agenda? Anyone who would benefit from using an agenda should use an agenda – but it needs to be adapted according to needs and abilities.
- Types of agendas: Some people use a day timer in paper format or an electronic agenda (using phone or a computer). Paper agendas are available in many formats (purchased in a store or printed from a computer). Dry erase boards that are updated daily by family or staff are another option.
- How do you use the agenda? Some people will need lots of details (e.g. - when to eat, when to go to the washroom and when to engage in daily tasks of the day). Others will simply just need details about the day (e.g. – who will be visiting and when, what time meals are, when to prepare meals and/or details about what he/she will be doing today). The extent of the details depends on the needs and abilities of the individual.
- Where: Put the agenda in a place where it can easily be referred to - as many times as needed. Consider putting it in one spot and when you introduce the agenda say, "When you want to know what is up for today, walk over here and have a look at your agenda. What should you do when you want to know about what is going on today?". Wait for a response, and if the person doesn't say, "Walk over to this agenda", repeat the answer and walk to the agenda. If you do this three times and the person cannot remember, do this again another time. If it doesn't work the second time, this person may not have enough short term memory to remember to look at the agenda.
- Some people who need to refer to the agenda frequently have carried it on a walker or folded a single page of details and put into a lanyard that is worn around their neck. (Note: The lanyard detaches if it is pulled, to avoid choking).
- When: Teach your loved to use the agenda every day. For some people it is important to 'check off' or "sign off" on each item when it done/over. This provides the memory prompt when the individual can't remember what he/she did today. The more the person uses the agenda, the better he/she will get at remembering to use the agenda.
- Why: This ultimately empowers the person with dementia to answer his/ her own questions about what is going on each day. The purpose of the agenda is to add predictability to each day, while also providing the memory supports needed by those living with memory loss. Also, for caregivers, this can reduce repetitive questioning, and add dignity, enhanced self-esteem and independence to daily living, while also setting each person with dementia up for success. Be sure to include tasks and leisure activities that can be completed throughout the day (at the person's level of ability).