A woman with 3 pairs of arms all doing different tasks (writing on a calendar, checking a pillbox, holding a pedometer, taking the cap off nasal spray, & holding out a plate of food) smiles at an elderly woman seated before her.

Flying By the Seat of Your Schedule: Making & Sticking With Routines

There are many theories as to personality types. The most popular simplifies people into Type As, the high achievers, and everyone else, Type Bs. While Type As tend to like their ducks in a row, Type Bs tend to name their ducks and are happy to have them at all. I have considered myself in the latter group.

Type A parents tend to have their kids’ college choices mapped out before they enter preschool. I once mentioned to a Type A friend that I wasn’t going to send my kids to preschool. She was alarmed and questioned whether I intended for my kids to go to college at all! I said I was homeschooling them for preschool (if that’s a thing).

Type A parents schedule everything, from potty training through the night (I liked my sleep) to a myriad of sporting events and playdates. My kids ran around the neighborhood with friends and hung out at home as a family. My daughter is at Cornell now, so I feel somewhat vindicated. I wasn’t a total hippie. I just had a wider framework.

More responsibility as an Alzheimer's caregiver

Once my parents moved in with us, I had more and more responsibilities fall to me. I didn't mind so much. Mom made some of the meals and did some of the shopping. She couldn’t leave Dad alone as his Alzheimer’s worsened. They were both diabetic, Dad with type 1, Mom with type 2 diabetes. That meant more regular meals and the regular taking of medicines. That wasn’t my responsibility, yet, although I helped her keep track. “Have you checked your sugar? What was your sugar?” became common questions.

The importance of routine for an Alzheimer's caregiver

Now that Dad is gone, and it’s just Mom with us, and she, too, has been diagnosed with dementia, likely Alzheimer’s, those questions are ones of many. “Have you taken your medicine?” “Have you put your hearing aids in?” “Did you eat breakfast yet?” “How many steps do you have?” “Let’s write all of your appointments on your calendar. Did you look at your calendar?” “Alexa, set a reminder for mom to take her medicine.”

Scheduling and organization has become more important. I make myself less crazy if I create more checks and balances. Mom has a pillbox that is labeled Sunday - Saturday am and pm. She used to start it on Wednesday, or whenever she would get around to filling it up. Now she starts it on Sunday, all full, so I know if she missed any. She has a little notebook that she writes down the date and what her blood sugar number was in the morning and then writes that she took her meds. It is a double check for both of us to know she did it. Sometimes she forgets.

She has a nasal spray she needs to add to her routine. She will do it with her morning meds and write it down. Her hearing aids are right there, too, so she puts them in first thing in the morning. Every day I ask her if she has done everything, and every day I look, and I praise her for doing it. We all like positive reinforcement.

I check that she is getting her steps. I bought her a cheap fitness tracker that had a screen big enough for her to see. It tells the time, too. It’s only set at 3,000. It’s too easy for her not to come anywhere close to that. My goal is 10,000, so she doesn’t want to walk with me, but she likes to either walk a path around the house or walk up and down the driveway. She is so proud to show me how many steps she has, and I applaud her!

Routines aren't bad, even for Type Bs

I have found that routines and schedules are not the bane of a Type Bs existence. They keep my sanity and keep my loved ones safer. I keep them simple. I don’t over schedule. I can know more what to expect; otherwise, I will be kicking myself later.

The reward is much less stress and feeling on top of things instead of feeling behind. Type A’s won’t need convincing of anything except to enjoy themselves and to schedule some fun. We all need to celebrate the victories! It’s not easy being a caregiver. Gotta go. Alexa’s reminder just popped up on my phone.

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