Managing time is an essential caregiving skill
Time is precious when you’re caring for an older adult. There’s so much to do, both for them and for you, and only 24 hours in a day.
Amy Goyer, AARP’s family caregiving expert, has plenty of experience getting more done with less stress. She’s learned essential time management skills through real-life experience.
Amy has spent more than 35 years juggling work and caring for her grandparents, parents, sister, and other relatives and friends.
She has written extensively for AARP about her experiences caring for her mother, who died in 2013, and her father, who lived with Alzheimer’s disease for 12 years before his death in 2018.
In this article for AARP, Amy shares her 10 best time management tips for caregivers. We highlight the key points from her article here and also add our perspective.
10 expert time management tips for caregivers
1. Schedule “me” time first
There’s so much to do for your older adult that “me” time usually falls to the bottom of your to do list.
But we can’t be effective caregivers if we’ve got nothing left to give. A car that has zero gas in the tank simply cannot keep going and neither can we.
To be able to care for others, we have to care for ourselves first – it’s not selfish, it’s practical.
The key is to schedule in some time for yourself first, don’t expect it to just happen.
2. Plan ahead
Planning saves time and reduces stress in the long run.
For example, a few minutes spent reviewing upcoming doctor appointments makes sure you or someone else is confirmed to accompany mom. This means avoiding last minute scrambles and having a chance to schedule work, errands, or “me” time.
Or, regularly check medications and essential supplies so you have a chance to get more before running out.
That will mean fewer desperate runs to the store on a super busy day or missing doses because a prescription isn’t ready.
3. Define roles and responsibilities
Working with others to care for your older adult gives you important support, but it’s necessary to make sure that everyone is clear on their responsibilities so there are no mix-ups.
Tasks fall through the cracks when each person thinks the other will take care of it. And because of the mix-up, nobody does it.
Then, time is wasted scrambling to get it done, schedules have to be rearranged, and tempers flare up.
4. Make a list and prioritize it – repeatedly
Caregiving responsibilities might leave you feeling overwhelmed. This can make it hard to stay focused. It can also make unclear what really needs to get done.
Having one list of To Do items keeps you organized by showing all tasks in one place and makes it easier to prioritize.
Amy suggests focusing on 3 top priorities per day. Experiment to find an organization system that works best for you, like keeping one main list and another “today’s priorities” list. Or, use a notes app that syncs with your smartphone, computer, and tablet for easy access.
When you need a boost of encouragement, focus on getting a few small things done to give yourself a feeling of accomplishment.
Putting things off just makes things harder or complicates them. Resist the temptation to procrastinate and just do it.
6. Manage expectations
It’s important to manage your own expectations of what you can realistically achieve. As your caregiving responsibilities grow, you can’t expect yourself to get everything done and do it “perfectly.”
That may mean scaling back on how often the carpet gets vacuumed, simplifying meals, or letting the yard go.
As Amy says, “sometimes good enough really is good enough.”
7. Be mindful
When your mind is jumping around between what you’re doing now and everything else that needs to be done next, you’re less effective and more stressed.
Avoid this kind of multitasking by staying focused on whatever you’re doing at that time. Once you’re done, move on to the next thing.
So if you’re with your older adult, be present with them. If you’re working, do your work. If you’re relaxing, focus on yourself. You’ll feel better and get more done.
8. Touch it once
Amy has made a habit of taking care of small tasks right away instead of adding them to her To Do list. It’s faster and keeps the list from getting out of hand.
For example, when a receipt for a medical visit arrives, file, scan, or shred it right away.
Similarly, take a couple of minutes to put away clothes, caregiving supplies, or household items right away instead of letting them pile up.
9. Declutter and get organized
A cluttered environment causes stress and makes it hard to keep on top of things. It takes extra time to find things that aren’t put away where they should be.
One option is to do what Amy did and consult with a professional organizer to create a plan that she put into action.
An alternative is to work slowly and steadily to clear up the house, section by section, and use the “touch it once” rule to keep from adding to the overall clutter while you eliminate.
10. Expect detours
Plans have a way of going awry and crises will happen.
If you take the perspective that this is inevitable, you’ll know that it isn’t your fault when these detours come up – you didn’t fail.
And using your time management skills will help you get back on track faster.
Recommended for you:
- When They Say No: 8 Ways to Introduce In-Home Care for Seniors
- A Caregiver Notebook Makes Caregiving Easier
- Caregiver Guilt: Two Common Myths Increase Stress
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Emblem Senior Care
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