Lack of time is one of the key caregiver struggles. In addition to traditional household chores, the family caregiver takes on the role of care manager, social planner, chef, housekeeper, driver, and jack-of-all-trades for their loved one. Time management may help offset the stresses and overwhelming sensation that most family caregivers buckle under, especially during the holiday season.
When time is at a premium, it’s easy to become stressed out, resentful, tired, and inefficient. Your health may begin to suffer.
Time management can’t solve all of these problems; sometimes a person simply has more to do than he or she is humanly capable of doing. However, making sure you’re using good time management skills may ease some of your caregiver struggles.
Tips to Ease Caregiver Struggles
1. Be as organized as possible.
Determine your typical “time wasters” and look at easy-to-implement solutions. For example, do you always seem to have to spend a few minutes looking for your car keys when you’re in a hurry to get out the door? Find a convenient place where you can leave the car keys when you come in the door, and get into the habit of putting them there. If you keep forgetting to bring Mom’s medicine log with you when you go to the doctor, put a note on the door the night before each appointment.
2. Write things down.
None of us are as young as we used to be and we all forget things. Maintain a notebook or install a record-keeping application on your phone to jot down important notes. Keeping a list of upcoming tasks can help you organize the days ahead and allows you to have a ready list of chores that can be delegated to other family members or friends.
3. Plan ahead.
If you’re going to take Dad to the doctor and you know this particular doctor always keeps you waiting, bring along some work that you can take care of while you wait. This might be a good time to fill out those Medicaid forms, read over that letter you got about upcoming changes in your insurance plan, jot down your grocery list, or sort Dad’s pills for the week. Or, if you know that it simply takes Dad longer to walk places now than it used to, allow extra travel time when going somewhere.
This is probably the most important tip. When you have seven things that all need to get done, re-evaluate and focus on the most important tasks. It also helps to realize that not everything on your list has to be done to the same level of perfection. For example, some days it may be more important to just do a quick “tidy up” rather than a real cleaning. And, out-of-town siblings can help with tasks that are not hands-on — such as financial records, medical paperwork or bill paying.
5. Know when and when not to multitask.
Certainly, folding a load of laundry while taking care of routine phone calls is an excellent use of time. However, take a moment to remember your most important role now and rejoice in the honor of your title as family caregiver. Maintaining eye contact, listening to stories, and taking time for a gentle caress are some of your most important jobs each day! Relish the special moments!