​Linda Lim, Senior Nurse Clinician - Advanced Practice Nurse, Nursing, NNI, answers common questions about planning and keeping to routines for persons with dementia.


Help! My father goes to bed at 9pm every night but he gets up at 2am and keeps waking me up asking for breakfast.
People with dementia often develop a sleep pattern that is not normal, so if your father goes to bed at 9pm, he will likely wake up while you are trying to sleep. The good news is that he is already in a routine, and good sleep can improve daytime function. You can try to gradually push his bedtime back until he goes to bed just before you do. Keeping him actively engaged – through exercise or cognitive-stimulation activities – during the day and limiting naps to 20 minutes if they are needed will help him sleep better at night.

My mother likes to go for a walk every morning after breakfast and is grumpy if she misses it, but we have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for 9am. What should I do?
Try to change the doctor’s appointment to later in the morning or in the afternoon so that your mother can still go for her walk. If this is not possible, adjust your routine to make time for the morning walk. Rushing someone with dementia can cause them to feel anxious and agitated, which can lead to uncooperative behavior. So, you and your mother may need to start your day one to two hours earlier than usual to allow time for routine activities before leaving the house, depending on how much time is needed to travel to the appointment. 

Our helper says my mother is difficult to handle while I’m at work and I don’t know what to do.
If you have a routine for your mother on the weekends, ask your helper to follow it, as this will help your mother feel more secure. Boredom and loneliness can also cause persons with dementia to ‘act up’, so it is important to factor in activities that she likes, that keep her engaged and provide her company, such as:

  • Going for a walk with your helper after breakfast or each meal
  • Helping with the housework, e.g. peeling onions or cutting fruit in the kitchen while your helper is cooking a meal, sorting laundry/pairing socks
  • Scheduling an hour every morning and afternoon for activities your mother enjoys, such as:
    • Puzzles
    • Crafts
    • Cooking and baking
    • Knitting and crochet
    • Gardening
    • Photography
    • Karaoke/playing the piano
  • You may want to consider enrolling your mother in a dementia day care programme so that she can socialise and have a wider choice of activities. For more information, contact the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC): Tel: 1800 650 6060 or visit AIC Link to speak to someone face-to-face. A list of AIC Link locations is available on the AIC website: http://www.aic.sg

This article was published in the National Neuroscience Institute's NeusLink magazine, which covers articles about NNI updates and brain, spine, muscle and nerve conditions in English and Chinese - to read more articles click here!

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