ADHD in Seniors: Coping Strategies

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a condition in the brain that can affect every aspect of your life. Due to the executive dysfunction that is present in those with ADHD, daily tasks such as paying bills, getting to work on time, and remembering and completing the household chores can be an uphill battle. The symptoms of ADHD affect performance not only at work and in professional spaces but also in their personal life. Building and maintaining relationships both personal and professional can be challenging due to the impulsive nature and lack of social awareness of those with ADHD. However, the challenge of ADHD is not insurmountable and through the use of skills and techniques, those with ADHD can live fulfilled and incredible lives. ADHD-friendly daily habits and strategies can lead to a feeling of having more control in your life and improve your self-esteem.

Structure and Organization

Often it is easy to take for granted the natural inclination and ability to keep a tidy home or neat work environment. However, those with ADHD are not usually predisposed to being organized. Often, due to distractibility and memory issues, those with ADHD have a messy home and a pile of unfinished projects. The first step to solving this is to put procedures in place. Instead of throwing your keys on the counter, put a bowl on the counter to keep your keys in a secure environment. This is just one example; however, it can be applied to many things in your life. Be mindful of what you are already doing and find solutions that work with your habits. Designate specific places that you will always put your important items.  People with ADHD are creatures of habit, often they cannot rely on their memory when looking for an important item or document so having an area where those things always go will take the guesswork out of where that important item went. As well, consider making space in your living environment by storing items that are not in use and labeling them effectively. Labeling and writing a list of what is in that box is key, as those with ADHD often will not remember what they put in that box or where that box ended up. So label your box “seasonal wear “and write what specifically is inside: winter coats, snow pants, and snow gear.

Time Management

People with ADHD often have what is called time blindness, where they do not have a good idea of what time it is nor how long a task has taken them. This means it can be difficult to transition from one task to another, finish tasks in a reasonable amount of time and be on time to schedule appointments. “it is time to get a watch”. While it may seem like a simple tip, having a wristwatch or a visible clock will help you remember the passage of time. Using a digital calendar that sets reminders can also be helpful as it can give you a prompt when it is time to leave so you are not late for your appointment. Always set your alarm to be 15 minutes before you leave the house as that will give you some leeway if you have misplaced your keys or you have gotten sidetracked on the drive. Always give yourself an extra 10 to 15 minutes to transition to new activities or to allow you the time to finish a task as people with ADHD often need more time to complete the same task. Using timers can also be a valuable tool when you think you may get stuck on a task. It could be helpful to use a timer to get yourself started on an unpleasant task, such as doing the dishes for only 10 minutes, or if you need to finish something quickly the timer can help keep you accountable.

Financial Literacy

Money mismanagement can be one of the more dire consequences of ADHD. Often the consequences of being late or having a fuzzy memory are minimal, perhaps a missed appointment or a lost document. However, when money and credit card bills are involved, late payments or misplaced bills can lead to high-interest penalties. Switch to online banking and use reminders to help you pay your bills on time. Talk to your bank about autopay options for important bills such as the mortgage and the utilities. And if you struggle with impulse shopping, then take a set amount of cash out at the beginning of each pay period and only use that cash for your purchases. Often those with ADHD struggle with impulse shopping due to impulse control issues as well as memory issues. Using cash can be a great way to minimize how much money you will be able to spend because it is a physical reminder of how much money you have and how much you have left.

Healthy Habits

Everyone benefits from getting eight hours of sleep a night, eating your fruits and veggies, and keeping your stress to the minimum. But those with ADHD benefit from those daily healthy habits as it helps regulate their brain, their stress, and their mood. Exercise can help with the hyperactivity aspect of ADHD and will keep racing thoughts and fidgeting to a reasonable amount. Exercising outside, such as taking the dog for a walk can also be a mood booster as vitamin D and sunlight helps regulate mood swings. As those with ADHD have an uphill cognitive battle, it means that they are more tired and worn out at the end of the day. So getting adequate rest and time to relax their brain is paramount – meditation and sleep are key to a resilient brain.

Having ADHD as a senior can be both a benefit and a detriment to your overall quality of life. Those with ADHD are often creative, intelligent, and dynamic. This makes them great friends, fun partners, and clever entrepreneurs. However, these successes do not minimize their struggles. By having structures in place to create healthy habits, those with ADHD can live full and enriched lives to meet their potential.

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