When families become caregivers life is anything but normal. Daily routines which once flowed with great ease suddenly become chaotic. Schedules are wrecked and life becomes a true balancing act—balancing being the key word.
Taking on the role of caregiver is a great responsibility for those who are up to the challenge and it’s important that the remaining family members become aware of the stress and work involved. Not only does the designated caregiver work to maintain normalcy for their immediate family but they’re in charge of juggling the schedules for those they are caring for.
Changes in routine are difficult enough for our families, but to our parents it means more than difficulty – it means confusion and disorientation. So how do we help manage our elder’s lives and keep them on track? Follow these steps to make the transition from independence to dependence as smooth as possible.
Maintain a time schedule—remember that our elderly are accustomed to a strict routine. After years of retirement, they’ve managed to set their internal clocks to alarm the same time each morning. Keep in mind, especially if your parent deals with Alzheimer’s or dementia, that repetitive routine is the balance for these individuals. If keeping the morning wake-up schedule is impossible, then ease the change in by adding 5-10 minutes to their morning. For instance, a caregiver might say, “Mother, you wake up at 6 a.m. I’ll be here at 6:10 a.m.” Then show up on time. Small fragments of time are easier to manage change for our elderly. So add slowly.
Be responsible and call—If you can’t make a pre-designated time, be responsible. Call. Let loved ones know that you are running late. Give them a time frame and then stick to it. If the schedule continues to change continue to call. Is it convenient? No. But calling will save both the caregiver and the parent frustration and confusion. Again, maintaining the fine line of balance is vital.
Be joyful—even when you don’t feel like it. Self-esteem for our aging parents is fragile at best. It’s enough for a parent to give up their independence but when they must suffer the guilt of being an inconvenience, depression and hurt build to enormous levels. Elders will not ask for basic needs when they feel as though they are a problem and many times they will do without vital things to their health, such medications.
As difficult as it is to maintain normalcy. Make the effort. It requires dedication and effort but mostly it requires love.