Grandma Flow Charts

Think about all of the amazing, caring, and supportive grandmothers out there today. I think most people would say they absolutely adore and love them with all their heart. But like everything in life, things get harder with age and without any help around you it can only get worse.

If you are one of the lucky ones like me to still have a grandparent around this post should be pretty relatable.

Meet Tita (Spanish for grandmother) Celia Martinez, the most stubborn but loving grandmother I know who unfortunately has alzheimer’s plus dementia. 🙁

Getting from A to Z is not easy for her and in return it has not been easy for us as a family. With constant doctor appointments, medication refills, exercise reminders and back and fourth arguments, it can be draining for everyone especially for my mom who has been her true caretaker. From getting my grandma to wake up at a decent time in the am, to brushing her teeth, to actually putting her teeth in, to showering, to coming down the stairs, to remembering what to eat, to remembering to take her medication, to exercising, ahhhhh, the list goes on and on. Sigh.

There had to be a way for us to improve this process of repetition. So one summer when I was watching my grandma I tested out an experiment. Nothing crazy. Just a simple physiological test to see how she would respond to two scenarios that involved “getting things done via a checklist”.

Option one:
Create a list on a piece of paper and hope she clearly understands what needs to be done, where to go, how to do it and why she has to do it:

Example:
1. Eat Breakfast
2. Exercise
3. Take Medicine
4. Clean
5. Etc.

Sounds easy right? Wrong. Grandma Celia pushed back because she needed to know the following.
1. Eat Breakfast – What do I eat?
2. Exercise – What do I need to do? Where?
3. Take Medicine – What do I take? How many?
4. Clean – What do I have to clean? Where is the broom?
5. Etc.

I mean, Tita Celia had a point and like most of us we won’t do something unless we know why and given that Tita is a grown woman (very grown) with alzheimer’s disease plus dementia we definitely had to take that into consideration which led me to option two.

Option Two: Create a map that would show her in sequence where and what she needs to do to.

 

The next morning, we left a marker next to the paper so she could cross off each task as she completed it and we also purposely left detailed notes next to several points that could get a bit confusing. We even added in some humor and sarcasm to make it more personable and interesting to her.

At the end of the map, we left a funny picture with some encouraging messaging like “Nice Work Tita” to really make it known we were proud of her and that we were excited to see her when we got home.

After doing 2-3 of these, we saw a lighter and more open personality from Tita that gave off a nod that she was willing to complete her chores as long as we were speaking to her and not at her. Of course this is not the cure for her illness but it showed that we love having her around and the value of taking things slow.

Final Takeaway:

For me, seeing Tita laugh, smile and feel accomplished was the biggest payoff but it also showed how obsessed I am with understanding how people respond to different approaches and style of thinking. In this case, a flow chart had a more impactful connection with her while framing it up as a story for her to understand.

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