Loss of Routines Can Disrupt Sense of Belonging

Loss of Routines Can Disrupt Sense of Belonging

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


“What do you miss the most about being in your home of so many years?”

That’s a question I often ask our newer residents when checking in on their adjustment to living in one of our communities at United Methodist Homes. Invariably the answer goes something like this, “I miss getting up, going downstairs, fixing a cup of coffee, enjoying it for awhile, having breakfast, and then going upstairs to wash and dress for the day.” Or, “I miss the daily routines, walking downtown, seeing neighbors, chatting, walking home with some little thing I might want or need during the remaining day.”

All of these responses speak to the human comfort found in the routine rituals of life. Doing certain things, in certain ways, provides a sense of belonging, which is a basic human need. No one is really comfortable feeling out of place. We all intuitively know this, yet sometimes seem to forget how much the aging process seems to upset the apple cart, disrupting life’s routines of older adults.

Whether the circumstances warrant physically moving to a new location or remaining in place, aging often forces unwanted changes. It is no wonder that older people often lose patience. They are asked to accept a lot of interruptions in their lives.

Adult children, clergy, visitors, and such, often follow suit in losing patience. Caring for older loved ones also involves change in routine for caregivers. And so I hear, “Why can’t Mom see what she has, rather than what she has lost?” “Why do I feel it’s my fault that dad cannot go out as much as he used to? There are only so many hours in a day to do all the things I’m supposed to do, without adding entertaining dad to the list.” Being an aging person and caring for and about an older adult brings these stresses. It is often difficult not to lose patience.

So, as one who has been there, I dare to offer a few suggestions:

• The guilt is natural, but serves no useful purpose. Only do what you feel comfortable doing. If at all possible, seek help for the rest, if it really needs to be done.

• Do not be afraid to say, “This is what I can do, let’s talk about another way of meeting your other needs.”

• If impatience seems to be setting in, step back, take stock, don’t beat yourself up. It is not your fault or the older person’s fault that the needs exist. 

• Be honest with the one for whom you care, help her/him to see that the situation, while it is about them, also affects you. Show your willingness to help, even while setting boundaries.

• Keep a sense of humor, laugh with the one you love, lightening the mood, including your own.

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2014 Rev. James Stinson