Have you ever noticed that much of your life exists on routine?
When you’re a kid, routine is everything. You get up in time for school, do homework at a certain time, have a bedtime to ensure you get enough sleep.
Then when you move out on your own, you establish another routine. Up in the morning to get to work, in bed at a certain time to ensure you get enough rest.
It only seems natural that when you move into caregiving mode, that you’d also develop a routine. But when your loved one is frail or ill, it can seem like it’s 24 hours of chaos where it’s anything but routine.
If you’re loved one has cognitive issues, they may struggle with daily tasks. You might start living by doing whatever is necessary, whenever it is required. But people with dementia often struggle more when they don’t have structure in their lives. They don’t act without being told. Without focus, the who, what, and where become confusing. They may act out more without the structure.
What should you do?
Move forward with new expectations
One of the most challenging tasks as a caregiver is to adjust your expectations. You’re used to your loved one the way they used to be. Part of you wants to preserve that and fall back on it whenever you can. Yet your loved one may never return to that position.
Do what you can do each day. Have enough structure to keep you on task, but be willing to let things go if you sense friction. Your routine might be to get up at a certain time of the day, and to eat meals together at certain times. Go with the flow if they’re just not capable of it, and need something different depending on the day.
Stick with the familiar
Your loved one probably becomes more agitated when they experience new things. Now isn’t the time to introduce new activities. Instead, focus on what your loved one loves and has expressed interest in in the past.
You should also give even more time to individual projects. Especially as your loved one’s condition changes, it may no longer be easy to finish things in specific amounts of time. Don’t fill every minute of the day, especially with back to back activities. This will help keep your stress levels down too.
Routines are important at every stage of life. And part of that is testing what works and what doesn’t, and leaving plenty of time for adjustments. Frustration almost always comes from setting expectations too high. If you keep your own anxiety in check, you’ll be more likely to create a peaceful life for the both of you.