Old Dog New Tricks!
Choosing Supportive Habits - Guideline 5
After 60 years of marriage, Dan and I had firmly entrenched habits. We got up at 6, had breakfast, walked upstairs to our “office” and online jobs, had lunch and a break, went back to work, fixed dinner, took a walk, and watched tv or read ‘til bedtime at 10.
I cooked the meals; he cleaned up afterward. I did the wash; he helped fold the clothes. I had a computer problem; he fixed it. He needed something ironed; I did it. We were a team and set in our ways.
However, as he struggled with dementia, many of those long-held habits changed.
The first few months after the surgery, Dan continued working, but he struggled. After he retired, he ran errands and helped where he could, but that didn’t last long. We did things together, because I couldn’t trust him to do them alone. So, we weren’t a team any longer. I was living both of our lives.
One day he went to Home Depot, a drive that he had made many times, and got lost on the way home. We could only watch certain programs on television because he confused what was on the screen with real life.
Sometimes, I lost my temper after saying the same thing or answering the same question 15 or 20 times. My habit was to say, “I just told you that,” or ask, “how many times do I have to tell you?” But those comments only caused frustration for both of us. My approach had to change.
One new habit that did work was making a 300-piece puzzle together - every day. Dan would complain, but it kept him busy for a couple of hours. Other habits that helped were touching him as we talked, eliminating distractions like the tv, and maintaining a calm manner - he responded to it.
Some of the new habits worked for a while, but then they didn’t.
At Memory Care
After he moved to the memory care facility, we led separate lives for the first time in 60 years - it was strange. I planned on being more involved in his life while he was there, but that was not to be.
Many habits changed once he was gone - my bedtime, what I watched on tv and fixed for dinner, etc. Mainly the habit of sharing our lives was gone.
Dan fell into the habits of the facility.
James Clear says, “Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.”
I had to transform my habits because my life changed. Almost nothing remains as it was three years ago. It’s all a work in progress.
take on more responsibility sooner
examine my habits
make changes proactively rather than reactively.
Guideline 6 discusses Evaluating Beliefs.
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