Recent studies show that over a quarter of adults over the age of 65 experience symptoms of anxiety that significantly impact their day-to-day life. The toll aging takes on one’s mind and body can cause significant psychological stress as they lose their sense of independence and cannot live as they once did.
Tasks that were once easy may now be difficult or impossible to do without assistance, and older adults may begin to worry about how and when these things will get done. One of the most effective ways to combat this anxiety is to develop a daily routine with them.
Getting Started with a New Routine
While it may sound simple, studies have shown that routines can significantly improve the lives of our loved ones by reducing levels of anxiety/depression, improving sleep, and even increasing their safety. There’s also a science to setting up an active routine. With a bit of planning you can introduce a productive and fun routine that helps your parent worry less and enjoy life more.
Staying Active While Staying Safe
Growing old doesn’t have to mean becoming bored. Our aging parents have many activities they enjoy doing, so build a routine that takes their interests into account.
- Talk with a loved one about activities they enjoy and make sure these are included in the schedule. This can provide a better sense of power and independence.
- Plan out routine cleaning tasks like vacuuming, mopping, and dusting. If they have trouble completing these tasks independently, make sure they are scheduled on days where a family visit is happening.
- Schedule exercise in advance. Add workouts to a loved one’s schedule 3-4 times per week to help them improve their physical and emotional health.
- Include social time in the schedule. Everyone needs to feel connected to other people, but introverts and extroverts have different needs. Try to get some insight into what they need and respect these needs when building their schedule.
- Allow some flexibility in the schedule. A daily routine can be scheduled without being overly strict. Allow for exceptions, days off, and plan Bs as needed.
Planning Ahead for Meals & Snacks
Many seniors experience challenges in the kitchen, making meal prep a necessary topic of discussion when creating a schedule.
- Talk with an aging parent about their preferred meals and snacks. Work together to create a weekly menu with various meals and foods that take their preferences and medical needs into account. Use this menu to create a grocery list for them to use while shopping to help them remember needed items. If this is an activity they did during their youth, you may be surprised at how proficient they are at this.
- Consider setting aside a day during the week to do all necessary meal preparation with a loved one. Individually packaged prepared meals can be refrigerated or frozen with reheating instructions included on the package, allowing them to quickly and independently make meals.
- Accounting for random cravings can give your loved one additional flexibility.
Consistency & Sticking to the Plan
The pacing of your senior parent’s schedule should fit their unique needs.
- Consider their former routines. Did they thrive in the morning, or were they more of a night owl? Try to mimic a schedule that worked for them in the past and modify it around their current needs.
- Schedule time to rest. Many elderly will need breaks between tasks to catch their breath or recover from the physical discomfort of what they are doing. Give them extra time to complete household chores and schedule breaks after so they can rest up.
- Keep the daily schedule as consistent as possible. The same sequence of events each day helps seniors with memory issues get into a groove.
We All Have Busy Days!
There are plenty of templates available for establishing an older adult’s daily routine. Here’s some fun ideas:
- Let them choose a calendar they like and hang it on the wall where they can see it.
- Put up a whiteboard in a loved one’s kitchen or living room and use colorful pens to write out their daily schedule.
Put up room-specific routines in each place to help a loved one remember what they need to do. For example, post a morning and evening hygiene routine in the bathroom to remind a loved one to brush their teeth or shower.
Share what works with us and others like you on our community page at Facebook.com/groups/beverlysdaughter
Supporting a senior parent with their mental health needs can seem like an overwhelming task. This may be especially true if you are already tending to many physical health needs. However, you can find support as you care for your loved one both mentally and physically! And we are ready to be that support!