I think routines represent a crucial element for family caregiver success. Routines ground us. And by "us," I mean both caregivers and the loved ones they care for. However, it's easy to stray from routines. Flexibility is one thing; abandoning routines is another.
One way to avoid abandoning routines is to write them down. You may laugh (I say this frequently), but I write down my routines. I have a morning routine, an after-work routine, an evening routine, and other routines based on activity or schedule. By writing them down, I avoid the burden of carrying them around in my brain. I don't know about you, but my brain is overtaxed as it is. My brain doesn't need one additional thing taking up space. Pen and paper work much better for tracking routines, in my opinion.
My routines reside in a 3-ring binder. I type them up, print them out, and then place them inside plastic page protectors. This allows me to use a dry-erase marker to check-mark the items I've accomplished in my routine.
Let me give you an example of my evening routine, which is one of the more important ones in my life:
- 30 minutes before bedtime, turn on the electric blanket (in the winter)
- Choose clothes for work the next day and hang them (including underwear, socks, bra) in the bathroom
- Check the pets' food and water bowls to make sure they're full
- Check tomorrow's dinner menu and take meat out of the freezer to thaw, if required
- Prepare tomorrow's lunch items and group them in the refrigerator or put them into the lunch bag (for items that don't require refrigeration)
- Check calendar for appointments
- Communicate schedule information for tomorrow with Lee
- Check e-mail, social media, and discussion group threads and post final responses of the day
- Shower (how sad I have to put that on my list!)
- Take evening medications
- Go to bed and read a favorite magazine for 15-30 minutes
When Dad lived with us, I also included:
- Lay out Dad's clothes for the next day
- Make sure pill boxes have been replenished (on Sundays)
- Get Dad's lunch for tomorrow assembled and labeled
- Put Dad's daytime pills in pill cups for tomorrow and label them as to time to be taken
- Check calendar for medical/dental appointments
- Remind Dad of hired caregiver routine for tomorrow
The list may look extensive, but by writing everything down I am able to complete the individual tasks efficiently. The entire nighttime routine only takes me 20-30 minutes. But the major benefit is not having to carry it all around in my head. I love not having to memorize a routine – especially when it changes frequently. As it changes, I simply type up a new sheet and then go through it step-by-step each evening. My stress level goes down, and the household runs smoothly. That's a 'win,' to me.
Weigh in: Do you write down your daily routines?