Like young children who need repetition and routines to learn from, the elderly need routines and repetition to keep them thinking and feeling better about themselves.
My dad has a stubborn routine where he insists on going to the cafeteria dinner at exactly the same time. He meets the same bunch of people to talk to, with some variety in who makes it, or if anyone goes earlier. He starts getting ready a half hour before so he will be presentable. When we visit with him and throw off the schedule, he gets all flustered, even when I send food with him that I made (and he says tastes even better than his cafeteria food). The routine is very important to him. The social contact, the staff, the food just prepared at the beginning of the shift – he’s become so dependent on this routine with his preferences.
We try to tell him to do the same thing with his dog – be consistent and repetitive. Unfortunately, it’s tough for him to understand that others need a routine. The elderly focus on their own needs and are oblivious to anyone else’s – unless the other person is close enough that her needs can be made known and understood – lovers can tune into their partner’s needs more easily.
Be patient – it’s part of aging for many. The elderly need routines to give them a sense of purpose, of direction, of clarity, of confidence, of happiness, of so many things for their comfort and well-being. Let them have their routines, no matter how trivial they seem. It makes them happy and content. If you need to change the routine, be patient in how they react – they might get anxious, or irritated, or angry, or confused – assure them that their routine will go back to normal after this break from it.
The elderly have been good to us as we tested them over the years, so give back and allow them to be a bit pushy or demanding and have their routines.