January is the time for resolutions! The gyms are full, weight watchers enrollment is up and chances are that come February, attendance will be sparse at these venues. In fact, I just learned what those chances are… one in eleven of us will stick to our New Year’s resolutions for six months and that 40% give up after two weeks. Well, as they say, “Old habits die hard.”

Accepting that we are all creatures of habit can help you in your caregiving efforts. Try to honor the same routines and preferences your loved one followed when they were independent. Bath or Shower? Morning or night? A quiet room or constant noise? People have a tendency to disregard these factors when someone has Dementia. I don’t support these comments but I’ve heard people say, “They won’t know the difference” or “it’s not convenient to do it that way.”

I guarantee that people KNOW the difference well into the end stages. As far as convenience, it is much more convenient to provide the cares according to preference because it will feel comfortable. For example, mom traditionally takes a shower at night and then goes to bed. If you shower her in the morning, she may be very lethargic after and fall asleep or insist on going back to bed. These variances in her routine can result in a battle. Also, she may have trouble falling to sleep at night if she does not get her usual evening shower first.

What are mom’s hot buttons? I would swear my mother was born with a bottle of Windex in one hand and a Swiffer in the other! My mother is forever dusting and wiping down the windows, furniture, counters, and whatever else can be cleaned with her beloved blue cleaner and magic dust wand. I always have these items accessible to my mom. If having a cleanser is unsafe, water and blue food dye in a Windex bottle works just fine! Resist the urge to do these things for mom. If she can do it, let her! Chances are there are many things she can no longer do safely. Give her opportunities to do the things that she has enjoyed doing throughout her life, things that gave her meaning. I could write a book about my amazing and inspiring mother, but the book would not be complete if I didn’t include Windex and Swiffer in her description. These essential tools enabled her to keep a tidy and shiny house which gave her great pride as a mother and wife.

Some of you may be thinking, “But mom has a thousand nitpicky preferences and following them all is impossible!” You may be right! The key here is to pick and choose your battles. What are the most important routines to mom that have the deepest impact on her wellbeing? Chances are that making sure the clothes are hung in the same direction in the closet becomes less important than taking that shower at night so she can sleep. Providing Windex and a Swiffer is safer than letting mom near the stove.

So here is a New Year’s resolutions to keep: Achieve contentment and happiness by empowering your loved one to maximize their own personhood by following these steps.

  • Identify preferences and routines
  • Prioritize those that will:
  • Make the most impact on your loved one
  • Can be carried out with probable success and consistency

Good Luck! I am sure you will stick to this resolution!!

-Joanne Rodda, Director of Memory Care at The Kensington

Kensington White Plains Director of Memory Care Joanne Rodda-Hubbard headshot.