Ideas for Dinner / Evening / Bedtime Schedule Challenges?

Posted by KMKM @kmkm, Oct 30, 2019

I’m challenged to keep my mom occupied during the hours while I make dinner and when she goes to bed (usually 4-5 hours.)
I need to focus on my tasks of cooking, clean-up and any evening chores and I don’t know how to keep my mom occupied.

TV might work for an hour or so. But most of the time she wanders and says, “What should I be doing?”, or, “I want to go home.”
I’m sure part of the problem is that I’m working in a different room…she’s anxious when she can’t see me.
Mom is not content to pull up a chair in the kitchen and watch me.
And she is completely unable to help in almost any way–her OCD and inability to carry out the steps of any task cause her to give up in frustration after about 30 seconds, and then she wanders away.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Hi! I'll tell you one thing I did with my mom. You can go to Amazon online and buy a zillion cloth napkins. Very inexpensive! Tell her that you need them folded. Doesn't even matter how she folds them, just tell her that she is so helpful!!! Put her at a table or tv tray, coffee table, whatever and put the stack in front of her. Let me know if that works! Virginia Naeve (www.anewpathformom.com).

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@becsbuddy and @debbraw share more activities that you might find useful in this discussion. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/activities-to-share/ Some are good for evening activities. The sundown time is the toughest. Is she able to help with setting the table?

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@virginianaeve

Hi! I'll tell you one thing I did with my mom. You can go to Amazon online and buy a zillion cloth napkins. Very inexpensive! Tell her that you need them folded. Doesn't even matter how she folds them, just tell her that she is so helpful!!! Put her at a table or tv tray, coffee table, whatever and put the stack in front of her. Let me know if that works! Virginia Naeve (www.anewpathformom.com).

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Thank you, virginianaeve. I've tried giving her napkins to fold. Her interest lasts about 1-2 minutes.

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@colleenyoung

@becsbuddy and @debbraw share more activities that you might find useful in this discussion. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/activities-to-share/ Some are good for evening activities. The sundown time is the toughest. Is she able to help with setting the table?

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Thank you, Colleen. No my mom can't set the table. I haven't found tasks (and I've seen many great suggestions on this site!) that interest her (or she can focus on long enough to complete) for more than a minute or two.

I think I've come to the conclusion that my mom's developmental abilities are similar to a 2-3 yr. old and she can't do much without assistance. One positive is that her energy level isn't like a 2 yr. old so I'm not "running" after her all day, and she's often content to lie down on the couch (if she can see me.)

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I am wondering if there is anything that you could do to defer some of these chores to a different time to reduce the amount of time you have to keep her entertained. Another poster commented that the sundown time is the hardest (which we experience as well). Maybe you could do more crockpot meals to minimize the amount of time you have to spend cooking or do the dishes after she goes to bed or the next morning? We use a meal delivery service that allows us to make meals quickly with minimal prep time because they come already assembled. That would reduce the time that you have to spend trying to keep her entertained and maybe make things a little easier on both of you. I am finding it helpful to steal some tricks from the days when I was parenting my kids and this is one of the things that helped back then.

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@coloradogirl

I am wondering if there is anything that you could do to defer some of these chores to a different time to reduce the amount of time you have to keep her entertained. Another poster commented that the sundown time is the hardest (which we experience as well). Maybe you could do more crockpot meals to minimize the amount of time you have to spend cooking or do the dishes after she goes to bed or the next morning? We use a meal delivery service that allows us to make meals quickly with minimal prep time because they come already assembled. That would reduce the time that you have to spend trying to keep her entertained and maybe make things a little easier on both of you. I am finding it helpful to steal some tricks from the days when I was parenting my kids and this is one of the things that helped back then.

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Thank you coloradogirl. When thinking about your ideas, I must confess that I enjoy doing daily chores (including making dinner) without having to stop and redirect my mom, and I'm wondering if I subconsciously resist "reducing the amount of time" I'm occupied by these things? I do remember as a young mom being frustrated in a similar way, but at least when my kids were little their attention spans allowed them to play with a toy, or each other, for a certain length of time. If I did implement some of your time-saving ideas, it seems like I'd have even more time I'd have to keep my mom occupied in the evening. Thanks for your thoughts.
Maybe I'll start a new discussion thread asking for sample dinner/evening/bedtime schedules and how others manage its challenges while also caring for an easily distracted person with dementia…

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@kmkm

Thank you coloradogirl. When thinking about your ideas, I must confess that I enjoy doing daily chores (including making dinner) without having to stop and redirect my mom, and I'm wondering if I subconsciously resist "reducing the amount of time" I'm occupied by these things? I do remember as a young mom being frustrated in a similar way, but at least when my kids were little their attention spans allowed them to play with a toy, or each other, for a certain length of time. If I did implement some of your time-saving ideas, it seems like I'd have even more time I'd have to keep my mom occupied in the evening. Thanks for your thoughts.
Maybe I'll start a new discussion thread asking for sample dinner/evening/bedtime schedules and how others manage its challenges while also caring for an easily distracted person with dementia…

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100% know how that feels! Even as a young mom, I just wanted the kids out from under foot for a bit so I could focus on my chores. In those days, their dad and I traded off so someone could work on the chores and the other one could wrangle the kids. (Especially when we had foster kids and our brood were ages 7, 4, 3, and 2!)

I honestly think it was easier to distract my kids than it is my person with dementia. In our current situation, I'm coming to understanding that if anyone is going to change, it has to be me rather than her because she just doesn't have the capacity to change. Is there anyone else in the household that could help out with distracting mom so it doesn't always have to be you? Or maybe you could get a friend or neighbor to come help out from time to time so you can get a reprieve?

Just some ideas – best wishes to you. I know this is not easy.

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@kmkm

Thank you, Colleen. No my mom can't set the table. I haven't found tasks (and I've seen many great suggestions on this site!) that interest her (or she can focus on long enough to complete) for more than a minute or two.

I think I've come to the conclusion that my mom's developmental abilities are similar to a 2-3 yr. old and she can't do much without assistance. One positive is that her energy level isn't like a 2 yr. old so I'm not "running" after her all day, and she's often content to lie down on the couch (if she can see me.)

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@kmkm. I just had a thought. Have you thought of an after-school helper or some teenager who could come for a few hours to help with your mom? Someone who only pays attention to her. I also like @coloradogirl suggestion of crockpot meals. Maybe coloring or painting or playing bingo. She could do those wherever you are. Would any of these work?

Liked by virginianaeve

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@kmkm

Thank you, Colleen. No my mom can't set the table. I haven't found tasks (and I've seen many great suggestions on this site!) that interest her (or she can focus on long enough to complete) for more than a minute or two.

I think I've come to the conclusion that my mom's developmental abilities are similar to a 2-3 yr. old and she can't do much without assistance. One positive is that her energy level isn't like a 2 yr. old so I'm not "running" after her all day, and she's often content to lie down on the couch (if she can see me.)

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My sister will wipe the counters especially after meals and even before. It takes her a long time.

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@kmkm

I realize everyone's situation is unique, but I'd like to ask for suggestions on how to care for a loved one who often needs redirection and attention while also trying to manage dinner/evening/bedtime routines.
How can I best manage our time so I can prepare dinner and then have time to do dishes, and maybe some time to enjoy family life afterwards? Currently, I often start dinner prep anytime from 4:30-5:30pm and we eat together after my husband gets home from work around 6:30. The kitchen is cleaned up ~7:30pm. (Mom goes to bed around 9:30pm and rises around 7am.)
Also, my mom's attention span and cognitive abilities are like a 2 yr. old., and she needs constant supervision in order to complete any task. Thank you!

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I may have posted wrong. I’m not too computer savvy. I’m the one that suggested she could wipe counters which always need to be done. How about sitting and giving her a newspaper if you get one. Sometimes the habit of reading newspaper comes back even though they aren’t reading. My sister can not tell you one thing she has read but pages slowly through a newspaper in the evenings. She also has a book of really easy sudoku puzzles. She can’t do them but she looks up the answers in the back and fills them in. It’s a little funny but hey it occupies her.

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I realize everyone's situation is unique, but I'd like to ask for suggestions on how to care for a loved one who often needs redirection and attention while also trying to manage dinner/evening/bedtime routines.
How can I best manage our time so I can prepare dinner and then have time to do dishes, and maybe some time to enjoy family life afterwards? Currently, I often start dinner prep anytime from 4:30-5:30pm and we eat together after my husband gets home from work around 6:30. The kitchen is cleaned up ~7:30pm. (Mom goes to bed around 9:30pm and rises around 7am.)
Also, my mom's attention span and cognitive abilities are like a 2 yr. old., and she needs constant supervision in order to complete any task. Thank you!

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Hi @kmkm and everyone, I merged the 2 similar discussions about evening activities into one discussion to bring everyone into the same virtual "room" so to speak.

Kmkm, members have shared some novel ideas so far. Is there one that you think might work for your mom and situation?

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@colleenyoung

Hi @kmkm and everyone, I merged the 2 similar discussions about evening activities into one discussion to bring everyone into the same virtual "room" so to speak.

Kmkm, members have shared some novel ideas so far. Is there one that you think might work for your mom and situation?

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Hi Colleen. Wiping the counters might keep mom occupied for a few minutes. And folding napkins another minute or two…

I perceive that mom does not enjoy most tasks partly because of her not remembering how to do them (i.e. how to sweep, set the table, etc.) and also because she seems to have a strong drive to "do it right" and gives up because it isn't the way she thinks it should be (i.e. pulling up the blankets on her bed, folding a towel, matching socks, putting away clean utensils…)

I can't teach her how to remember a skill, and I can't talk her out of her needing to "do it right" and giving up.
As coloradogirl mentioned in the post above, "I'm coming to understanding that if anyone is going to change, it has to be me rather than her because she just doesn't have the capacity to change."

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@kmkm

Thank you, virginianaeve. I've tried giving her napkins to fold. Her interest lasts about 1-2 minutes.

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Shoot. Have you tried putting headphones on her with some of her favorite music playing in her ears? It's worth a try!!

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@kmkm

Thank you coloradogirl. When thinking about your ideas, I must confess that I enjoy doing daily chores (including making dinner) without having to stop and redirect my mom, and I'm wondering if I subconsciously resist "reducing the amount of time" I'm occupied by these things? I do remember as a young mom being frustrated in a similar way, but at least when my kids were little their attention spans allowed them to play with a toy, or each other, for a certain length of time. If I did implement some of your time-saving ideas, it seems like I'd have even more time I'd have to keep my mom occupied in the evening. Thanks for your thoughts.
Maybe I'll start a new discussion thread asking for sample dinner/evening/bedtime schedules and how others manage its challenges while also caring for an easily distracted person with dementia…

Jump to this post

In thinking about managing dinner time when my two oldest children were little (11mos apart) I would only cook a home cooked meal every other night, or I would batch cook several meals while husband or someone else was present. Then I had leftovers and time to devote to the kids.
Other times I would hire a teenager to spend an hour while I was there, either playing with the older child,
or mopping the floor or loading the dishwasher, It was inexpensive and both parties benefitted. I also "bartered" time with an adult neighbor with teen children.. She would cook a meal, or do some housekeeping or babysit (at my house) and I would provide transportation for her dr. visits, as she could not drive. We both enjoyed the companionship.
I don't know if any of that would work for you, but sometimes it wasn't a matter of scheduling but having an extra person come to your home to engage with your mother.

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