“My mom/dad is driving me crazy! She gets upset over the tiniest thing. She blames me when anything upsets her schedule.”

Sound familiar? As a caregiver, you may have said the same thing on more than one occasion. I know I have.

If you’re caring for an elderly parent, it’s important to remember they need routine. You may call it ‘set in their ways’ but as we age, doing the same thing at the same time gives us a sense of security. This need tends to magnify as we grow older.

Think back to when your children were young. Most of us tried to get our babies into a feeding routine, and at the very least, to get them to sleep through the night.

When they were toddlers, a regular nap time was crucial for preventing late afternoon meltdowns. Once they started school, outside forces set the routing.

Our lives are run on a regular routine:

  • Start work at 8:00
  • Break time at 10:00
  • Lunch at 12:00
  • Break again at 3:00
  • Leave for home at 5:00

Your schedule may be a bit different, but the idea is the same. If your aging parent is housebound, or if she needs hands-on caregiving, she’s comforted knowing when things will happen. It may help to post a schedule in a convenient place, like the refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Indicate when you will arrive, which days are shower days and any medical appointments scheduled for the week.

So much is out of their control. They need the security of a regular routine. This is especially true if your aging parent suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

It’s imperative to schedule time off for yourself, if at all possible. Posting it on your loved one’s calendar will help them get used to the idea that you’re taking a day off. Being able to see what’s planned may make it less frustrating and more rewarding for both of you.

When my husband and I first talked to my mother about having a day off from cooking dinner and eating with her, she had a meltdown. After she’d had time to process our need for alone time, or a date night, she was able to cope. We make sure she has something to eat, or we bring her some fast food, which she loves. Now she asks, “Where are you going on your date night?” It was a complete turnaround.

Caring for an aging loved one can be frustrating and tiring, yet, if you allow God’s Holy Spirit to open your heart, it can be one of the most rewarding times of your life. The caregiving season is a time to enjoy the last days of your parents’ lives.

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