Who doesn’t remember the Eddie Murphy skit? “Eddie, what time is it?” “Eddie, I’m cold” “Eddie, bring me some tea?” “Eddie what time is it?” (Yes, you can quickly guess how old I am now!)
There are so many reasons in our current environment to lose track of what day it is. Since the pandemic and stay in place orders, most all extra curricular activities for seniors have been shut down, so that will no longer help differentiate one day from another. So how do we help our seniors stay current with the day?
Daily newspaper. This looks different for each of my parents, who are both is in different stages of decline. My stepdad remains very attached to his computer. He reads the daily papers on his laptop. For my mom, she let go of the computer several years ago. (In hindsight, this might have been an initial sign of decline.) Growing up, I do not remember my mom reading the newspaper. However, now that gives her focus and a gentle reminder of what day it is. Latest twist, she no longer stays on top of the daily paper. So on any given day, she could be reading a paper from any day. An obvious solution is to only allow her today’s paper and recycle any other day. “Allow” seems like a harsh route to take in regards to a newspaper, so read on and you will see the other options we employ.
Day planners or agendas. Old school but reliable, IF you put all the information in it. This solution is my mom’s fall back and gives her security. There are a few obstacles with an agenda beyond the obvious that have arisen. The first might just be specific to my mom, what she writes she understands at that moment, but not always later. In addition, she focuses on documenting all the ancillary information. That leaves her with so much information that is not relevant to any appointment, the appointment is now lost on the paper. Or the time or date of the appointment changes…my mom will add arrows as a solution. This is NOT a solution, we are not proofing a first draft of a paper, this is a calendar to live by.
A surprise struggle this past year unveiled itself. The layout of the planner! For Christmas she received a beautiful agenda, pictures, motivational sayings and prayers, the works. However, the days were not always in the same location on the page, week to week. Yes, Monday always came after Sunday but on week one, the Monday box appears long and at the top left of the page. On week two it was offset lower on the page and to the right, because there was an image in that upper left corner. By February, I noticed (completely by accident) my mom was struggling to understand what was on what day. It is one of those things I happened to witness and question. Always be aware of your surroundings. I went out the next afternoon with her to the office supply store – bonus calendars are on clearance by February! We selected one that seemed logical to her. That is all that matters. Moving on…
At this point my mom can not write appointments in her day planner. It is not that she can not write, but putting the words in order so they make sense later, is not worth the anxiety it causes her. This means that appointments need to be added by someone else. The paper appointment reminder that comes home, write it in the calendar and shred the paper. Our in home aide can help with this.
Online calendar including cell phone access. Before my parents moved in, accessing the calendar on her phone was a regular thing for my mom. Her volunteer schedule, birthdays, anniversaries, doctors appointments…it was in there. I remember her getting frustrated over the phone with me, she was convinced that her husband had erased appointments. It started with birthdates. Then there were doctor appointments being missed. (Her husband swears he did not erase anything.) Another sign. Once my folks moved here, I quickly initiated the family calendar on Google. Each member of the household has their own calendar and they share it with me. Each appointment, because it can be seen by all, is scheduled with the participant’s name first on the appointment. So it appears as “Mom Lunch with Friends…” “Jake Hockey Practice…” “Poppy Dentist…” This step is important for our household due to the number of residents and because later I will discuss how we display this besides our own computers and phones. My step dad always has the calendar open in a window on his laptop and his calendar he accesses from his phone when he is out. Knowing who is where and when seems to provide an extreme sense of control that eases my parents anxiety.
Samsung watch/Apple watch. What an amazing invention! This is a perfect solution to so many things related to aging. It goes on in the morning and a phone is with your parent all day. Reminders pop up. Location services help you find them! They can contact you for help… My sister and I invested in a fun colored watch for my mom a few years back. She loved it! The way it looked and what we said it could do. Lesson after lesson on just one function… the same function wasn’t able to be repeated the next day. I think we just introduced this technology too late in her life or too late into the disease. I will admit, I am tempted to try the Apple watch as I feel that is a little more intuitive. We will see, it means new phone and new watch…read this as me making a scrunchie face.
Dry Erase Board.We live in a sprawling one story home. After my parents moved in, we found that during the day mom spent most of the time in the front of the house. No problem there, however she didn’t have a calendar in the front of the house to know where each person was. Enter the white board in the entryway. What a low tech, easy solution. That is until you have written a color coded schedule for 7 people each night before bed for a year – I needed another solution.
Enter Dak Board. This is an application that displays the calendar via a small piece of hardware called a raspberry pie, on a monitor. For us, this a 27″ tv monitor that was unused. So, earlier when I was referring to the Google calendar where I merge each individual calendar, this is how we display it. One side is the day’s events and the other side of the screen scrolls through pictures of family. The photos are just in a library, so they can be changed and updated as desired. I can tell you – this solution is a life saver for me. We have recently ordered a second device for a monitor in the back of the house as well. (Truth – my husband and my youngest set this up. I may have been able to implement it, but why try when I can ask for help! Ask for help!!)
One thing that has helped my mom, regardless of which solution it is on that day, it has always been in the same place – the front entryway. Mom knows that is where the calendar information lives. No matter if she can’t locate her day planner, she can walk out front and see the day’s calendar!
One last addition, next to her bathroom mirror, is a board with cardboard pieces for month, day and date. As of now, my mom changes the boards daily as another way to reinforce the day/date. It serves as a reminder every time she goes to the bathroom and washes her hands. This could also be the white board solution as well. But for my mom, she would be hesitant to write and prefers the cardboard pieces. Literally this solution was in the Target $3 bin at the front of the store!!
I guess my point here, is the solution may not be a constant. The solution may consist of several options. I know that helping my mom be aware of the date has helped her feel confident. I will do what it takes for her to keep her confidence as long as possible! Be willing to adjust, like everything else. In review, these are a few options to track the days. We have used:
- Daily newspaper – online or paper
- Day planner/agenda
- Online calendar, computer and cell phone access
- Samsung watch/Apple watch (or a regular watch that has a date on it)
- Dedicated monitor to display an electronic calendar
- White board/chalkboard
- Calendar hanging on the fridge
- Wooden/cardboard month, day and date
What works in your situation? Tell me there is something obvious I missed. It happens all the time, being in a situation can cause “blindness” to the obvious. None of it has to be high tech, that is just a benefit I have because of my loving husband. Has the pandemic made you do anything differently to keep track of the days for your loved ones? Oh my mom does miss the trips to the gym and other classes – one day we will be there again!!!
Thank you for reading!
Start where you are.
Use what you have.
Do what you can.Arthur Ashe