Many family caregivers and others who have more to do than time to complete what’s needed find themselves following a strict routine — or trying to follow one.
Monday is laundry, Tuesday is errand day around town like banking or mail, Wednesday is grocery shopping on discount day, Thursday is doctor and other appointment day, and on and on.
Most days we use this routine and scheduling plan we are able to accomplish what we set out to do. Unfortunately, some days chaos happens and if feels like we aren’t able to get anything done.
Does that sound familiar?
It feels like our list of to-dos gets longer and longer each week and the daily routine gets excruciatingly boring!
Benefits of Routines
Despite the potential for boredom and the frustration when our best laid plans get waylaid by something unforeseen, having a routine does benefit family caregivers and those for whom they care.
- When we have an established daily routine, seniors who have dementia can have better quality of life. Those seniors gain comfort in knowing that brushing teeth comes after eating breakfast and taking a nap comes after lunch and watching a favorite show comes when the room gets dark. They anticipate the next step instead of getting blindsided and anxious when something out of the ordinary occurs. A routine for them is pleasing and never boring!
- For people with dementia, a routine can reduce their confusion and ultimately negative behavior. Agitation can come from chaos or breakdown in their routine!
- Having a routine helps your brain focus on the job at hand and relieves you of the need to constantly make another decision. Having to stop often to decide to wash dishes, get dressed, or take a walk can waste time, energy and get in the way of actually doing!
- When you have a routine that you and your senior loved one both know, the number of distractions will diminish. Everyone knows the expectation for the day. Not only will it make it easier to maintain your focus on the needs of the day but it can keep you motivated to check off those items that are already done. A schedule can keep you on task and the satisfaction of crossing through task after task is extremely fulfilling.
- Having a routine and sticking to it as much as possible will bring your relief at the end of the day and a strong sense of accomplishment. Getting the lion’s share of the daily activities done each day will (hopefully) help you sleep better at night. You know you did your best and met deadlines and can now rest up for the next day!
- A well balanced, full routine will keep us from being bored. If you make a good plan of action for the day ahead or the week ahead, you can be sure that you will keep a continuous flow of activity so that boredom doesn’t have a chance to enter the picture. Boredom can lead to many unpleasant things including agitation, depression and isolation.
- A schedule or routine can help you feel relaxed, you know what you are facing and that you can do it! It also allows you to feel grateful that all the tasks that you are responsible for providing as a caregiver can be done with a plan and you are able to accomplish them.
- A plan for the day and week will also help you realize where you need help. Caregivers can’t do everything by themselves and need help from their networks often more than they seek it! When you look at your plan, you can see the gaps where another set of hands will be needed or where respite for you to meet your personal needs is necessary. Reaching out for help when you need it and can see it coming so that it is arranged appropriately will help you be a better caregiver!
- A routine especially for people with dementia can help them feel safe. They understand that they will be cared for and loved and their needs will be met because they have a routine. It can help overcome the fear of the unknown for those with dementia.
- Inevitably something will happen that is not on the schedule. It happens. However, when you have a routine that you consistently stick to, being flexible is easier because you have confidence that tomorrow is another day and you can get tasks done making the best use of your time prioritizing needs. You’ve done it before and know you can again because you plan well.
Will a Routine Kill Spontaneity?
Having a routine you use to manage your life as a caregiver has many benefits to both you and the person for whom you care.
Does that mean you can never veer from it? Absolutely not, nor should it. We have to be flexible to follow a bluebird while out for a walk or stop for an ice cream cone on the way home from the doctor.
It’s important to enjoy life’s special moments and share them with our loved ones.
Your routine is your road map to your day but should not be written in stone. We need to be able to adjust the plan when things happen that open the door for change. We will have unique opportunities that we shouldn’t pass up, such as an unplanned visitor, an emergency or a great idea!
Making our routine for the day or week should include fun time, rest time, and self-care. Caregivers don’t always take the time in each day or even by the end of the week for themselves and their own well-being.
Don’t Forget Caregiver Time in the Routine!
Caregivers need to eat, sleep and relax too. While we plan a nap for our senior loved ones, what will we plan for ourselves during that time to care for ourselves?
We need time to maintain our own identity by visiting with friends, getting our hair cut, or participating in an activity that we enjoy outside the house.
Being connected with our network and getting the help we need to have time for a break whether for an hour, a day, a weekend or longer is important for caregivers.
We have to take care of our own health so that we can continue to care for others who need us. Getting fatigued, ill or burned out won’t help our senior loved ones in the long run so putting your own needs into your daily routine will be worth it to everyone!