During the COVID-19 pandemic, routine isn’t routine anymore. I’ve moved from a daily double-booked, jam-packed calendar to day after day of being left to my own devices.
Just because my calendar is clear does not mean that I have no obligations. I still have work to do on my books, website updates to make, conference calls, emails, Facebook and Twitter advocacy posts, not to mention house and yard work that has to be done routinely. And laundry never goes away on its own. The problem lies in not in routine, but the lack thereof.
My routine does not exist. If I don’t feel like doing something today, I’m fine with putting it off until. Instead of jumping in and working on projects, I’ll get sidetracked with playing my ukulele, reading a good book, watching TV, or sitting on the deck drinking coffee, and occasionally taking a nap—in other words, the kind of activities I always wanted to have time for when I retired.
I accomplish much more when I have a routine. I try to get back on track with my to-do list. But sometimes I don’t do the routine things required to know what I should be doing. I may go days without looking at my mail, or email. I ignore the items on the dry erase board. I forget to even look at the calendar and if I do, I may not be looking at the right day, week, or month.
Routine is important for all of us, but especially for persons with dementia and their caregivers. A few things for caregivers to consider when setting a routine:
1) Keep grooming for your loved one on a regular schedule. When he starts the day with hair combed, teeth brushed, toileted, and fresh clothing, you’ve helped establish a good beginning for a new day.
2) Have meals at regular times. Your loved one may not experience hunger in a normal manner. This can range from not realizing it is time to eat to forgetting that he has just had a meal and thinking it is time to eat again. The type of snacks you want to have available depends on whether your loved one needs extra nutrition to maintain weight, or a low calorie snack to avoid unnecessary weight gain.
3) Give medications at the same time every day. Two reasons for this—the medications will provide continuing benefits, and you won’t forget it!
4) Schedule activities for the time of day that works best for your loved one and suitable to her abilities. Sundowning can be a problem for people with dementia, and they won’t be at their best during evening hours. Activities can be as simple as taking a walk, going for a car ride, watching a favorite show together, or simply sitting on the porch drinking coffee or tea. Oh, and ice cream and milkshakes can go a long way to brightening up a day.
5) Establish a nighttime routine. Some people with dementia do not sleep well. Taking a relaxing bath and putting on pajamas can help remind them that it is bedtime.
The only thing you can depend on is that every day will be a new experience when you are the caregiver for a loved one with dementia. Keeping life as routine as possible is the best way to stay on track.
Sometimes you may find that no matter how much you try, it’s really a coin flip—heads, things go according to the planned routine; tails, the day dissolves into chaos. On chaotic days, the flip side of routine—flexibility—rules the day.
Copyright © May 2020 by L.S. Fisher