by Elizabeth Shean
I saw a funny meme on Facebook the other day. Funny because it was so apropos of the past two weeks of my life. It read:I love routineuntil I get boredthen I love excitementuntil I get overwhelmedthen I love routinePart of Mom’s routine includes a lot of chatting on the telephone. Mom relies on the phone for social interaction. The physical and cognitive infirmities of older age seem to have isolated her, and she’s acutely aware of it. As recently as last year we held season tickets to the Houston Grand Opera. But Mom isn’t able to hoof it to our seats anymore—and don’t even think of suggesting she use a wheelchair because your audacity will only get you the angry stare of death. Sadly, she would rather give up her tickets than “monkey with the rigmarole” of attending with a walker or the wheelchair.So each day Mom phones up everyone she knows and chats, sometimes for an hour or more. After a recent afternoon spent catching up with her far-flung brothers, she regaled me with tales of all the things they’re doing, from tending livestock in Montana to painting nature scenes in Ohio. Then Mom turned to me and said with exasperation, “All I know is everyone else is doing all this exciting stuff, and I’m here doing nothing!”Feeling guilty, I resolved to up my game a bit and give Mom an outing. That Saturday we plunged into hectic Houston traffic and drove to a nearby mall, where we shouldered our way through the crowds to find Mom a new, pretty bathrobe. Mom even deigned to use her walker. Three hours later, we trudged back to the car and went home, exhausted.At the time Mom chattered with energy about how exciting it had been to get out into the rush of humanity. But the next day she said, “We don’t have anywhere we need to be this week, do we? Because all I want to do is stay home.”I love routineuntil I get boredthen I love excitementuntil I get overwhelmedthen I love routineWhat I’ve discovered, though, is the routine can bring its own kind of excitement. Such was the case the following Friday, when Mom’s Home Instead® CAREGiver℠, Anita, arrived. All week Mom had anticipated getting answers to her many questions about Anita’s: how did her son’s football game go? Did Anita buy him a car for his sixteenth birthday? And what of Anita’s weekend plans? Not to mention Mom wanted to share with Anita the details of her own exciting trip to the mall.I love the way Anita’s weekly arrival sparks some energy and excitement in Mom. Maybe when you’re 82 years old and have mobility problems—and perhaps some cognitive issues related to dementia—vicariously enjoying someone else’s life makes up for the seeming boredom of your own routine. Especially when you discover real-life excitement is perhaps more overwhelming than you remembered it was.