Simple strategies to help Occupational Therapists’ clients manage daily routines

Now, more than ever, we have access to a large range of options to help maintain our daily routine and complete our ‘to do’ lists. From post-it notes to wall planners, written diaries to smart apps, organisation can be achieved through a number of ways.

However, it is important to know how this can assist Occupational Therapists (OTs) and their clients who live with memory impairment, brain injury or learning difficulties. A client’s independence relies on a clear strategy for organising their daily routines, medication and social life.

Strategies for memory loss
Some people in the early stages of dementia or memory loss will begin to find it increasingly difficult to maintain their schedules and manage money. They may be reluctant to ask for help and this can lead to covering up errors which can be a major source of stress. Learning new coping skills and strategies can bring about a renewed sense of accomplishment for people with dementia. OTs helping someone manage their daily routine should consider the following:

The problem: make a list of tasks that have become more challenging
Focus on developing coping strategies for the more challenging tasks. For example, if clients are forgetting to take their medication, but have no problem remembering to do the laundry, focus on creating medication reminder strategies first.

Keep it simple: determine if the task is necessary
Ask whether the task could be completed with someone else’s help such as checking whether a carer could write out a cheque when it is becoming too difficult for the client. If the answer is yes, ensure the client can retain control by remaining in charge of signing each cheque.

The right strategy: find the solution that works best for them

If the client is having difficulty cooking dinner, try simplifying the process by using a slow cooker or a one-pot oven. Set realistic goals and focus on what the client can change at present.

Be realistic when setting goals
It is important to be realistic about how many activities a client can fit into the day and the time it will take to complete them. Putting too much into a proposed schedule or expecting someone else to do more than they can do will put additional stress on the task and lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction for both OT and client.

Develop a daily routine for the client

  • Make a daily plan to keep track of the few tasks they want to accomplish each day. For example, always bathing at the same time is a reminder to maintain personal hygiene
  • Approach one task at a time
  • Allow enough time to complete a task
  • Be aware that problems may not be solved first time round

Examples of identified tasks and strategies

Managing medication

  • Set up a daily medication dispenser
  • Ask someone else to remind them to take their medication
  • Set an alarm on a phone for meal times

Personal Care routines
An idea for the bathroom could be to move the shampoo and other products to another shelf after use so the client can keep track of completed tasks.

Apps for memory and time management

Smartphones and tablets have a number of apps that are useful for task management and diary planning. These have been well tested and reviewed in the following articles:

As technology offers so much in modern times, OTs can help people who struggle with planning tasks and remembering appointments in a number of different ways. By being aware of the strategies and products that are available to assist clients, OTs can help their clients discover a system that works best for their unique needs.

References and supporting information: