My knowledge for the subject of elderly routines came from personal experience – said “knowledge” was, as I typed, my elderly Mom, snoozing in her chair, feet up, sated after her morning coffee and hot biscuit. I call this “nap after breakfast #1” and we could count on this elderly routine every single day.
You see, I was my Mom’s caregiver from the day after Dad died to her own death five years later. And, we had lots of elderly routines I needed to learn and adapt to our new lives.
My folks enjoyed a marriage unlike any other I’ve seen. Their marriage was built on love, respect, and a firm commitment to their family. They strove, and succeeded, at giving their children a better life than they had had. And, for that, we are all forever grateful.
But, after sharing a 65.5 year marriage, when Dad died, Mom’s routine was changed. She no longer served him coffee and toast in the morning in their own home in Arizona. Instead, she came to live with me in my home in Maryland and a new life started.
Routines For The Elderly Doesn’t Necessarily Mean “Stagnant”
Even though routines are very important to the elderly, routines can still be changed, as long as the basic routine stays the same – got that? What I mean by that rambling sentence is that there are ways to jazz up even the most mundane routine. Take dinner, for example.
I liked to have friends over for dinner with me and my Mom. So, although we eat early (we were, after all, living in the blue hair special timezone…), having different people sit at the table and having different conversations not only kept me sane but engaged my mom.
During these friendly dinners, I would try new recipes which Mom may or may not have liked. I always made sure to have a food she was familiar with to have for dinner in case she hated the new recipe. Just putting a dinner plate in front of her with familiar foods could put her more at ease.
Try finding ways to ‘change up’ routines to keep them from becoming stagnant. It may be challenging but it can be done.
What Happens When Routines For The Elderly Change
Well, what happens when a routine changes, at least in my Mom’s and my world, is that confusion can abound.
My first inkling that I was causing confusion for Mom was when we approached the bathroom from a different direction one day. Normally, she was in the living room and I walk her to the bathroom from there. But, one day, we were in the kitchen and she had to use the bathroom so I took her to the bathroom from the other side of the short corridor. She couldn’t understand where to put her walker and how to get in the door. Hmmmm….It never dawned on me how the bathroom routine was ingrained in her brain.
Now, when we approached from the other side of the door, I gave her instructions, one by one, and I guided the walker myself with one hand always on mom to steady her.
So, if you find that your elderly loved one is confused, stop and think what might have changed. It could be that you’re asking them to do something that they’re no longer familiar with and this is causing the confusion. Or, you might have just varied the routine without realizing it.
Changing a routine, especially for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient can be devastating to them – it may even bring on fits of anger and despair. The familiar may become totally foreign to them if you take them out of a well known routine. Whenever possible, particularly for these patients, try to keep the routines similar to what they’ve always been. Introducing new items into a well established routine should be done s-l-o-w-l-y.
Ways To Vary An Already Familiar Routine For The Elderly
As mentioned above, having various dinner guest in to your home could vary the dinner routine nicely. You might also consider adding to the routine by have a pre-dinner cocktail, if your elderly loved one can have one. Mom and I enjoyed many happy hours, sometimes with just the two of us jolly girls or sometimes with friends stopping in.
I would also periodically make Mom a special cocktail like a whiskey sour which she used to love. I’d usually let her tell me what her fancy was that day but, sometimes, as part of the happy hour routine, I’d surprise her.
Getting the elderly out of the house can be challenging but rewarding. Once a week, whether she wanted to go or not, I’d pile Mom into the car and take her on an outing. This routine can week after week but, what changed, was where we went. Sometimes, I’d take her to Brookside Gardens and guide her wheelchair down the beautiful paths. Sometimes we’d go to lunch. But, Mom knew, on Wednesday afternoons we were out. She came to love those times as did I.
I wrote an article about helpful items to have on hard if you’re taking the elderly in the car. You can see it by clicking Adaptive Car Needs.
Why not set aside an hour a night to visit/talk or just enjoy your senior citizen friend. This type of routine for the elderly can really make their day special. Bring along a large format jigsaw puzzle or a few puzzle books to enjoy.