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Mastering the Chaos: Essential Time Management Tips for Family Caregivers

Caregiving Tips for Time Management

Ever feel like you’re juggling flaming torches on a unicycle? For family caregivers, this can feel like their everyday reality.

I know how you feel. When I started caring for my mom, some days felt endless. Over the years, I learned tricks to make caregiving smoother. Whether you’re caring for a parent, partner, or friend, I want to share what helped me.

Caregiving is like having another full-time job. It’s managing meds, appointments, daily tasks, and more. Overwhelmed? You’re not alone.

Here’s the key: time management hacks can reduce chaos. Let’s explore practical strategies to help you take control and even find a moment to breathe.

Turn that chaos into a smooth routine!

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Understanding the Time Management Challenges Caregivers Face

Caregiving can often be unpredictable, especially if we are caring for someone with dementia or other disease. It’s often challenging to get everything done when we thought we could. Our loved one will have good days and others might not be so good.

For example, your dad might have a doctor’s appointment at 10 am. You struggle to get him to bathe regularly, but you want to be sure he is clean before his doctor’s appointment. When you arrive at his house at 8:30 am and he is still in bed. You encourage him to get up since he needs to shower and eat before you head out to the appointment. He keeps telling you he is too tired to get out of bed.

You start getting frustrated because you are running out of time before you have to walk out to the car, get him settled in and drive to the doctor. As you keep losing time with his excuses for not getting out of bed and showering, you remind yourself that showering would be great, but the goal is personal hygiene. So you grab the full body shower wipes and clean him up to save time. You avoid the continued battle, and you still accomplish the goal while saving time.

Caregiving Consumes a Lot of Time

Many caregivers juggle caregiving duties with their full-time jobs, raising children, and other obligations. This is why today’s caregivers are called the sandwich generation. According to AARP’s 2020 report, 61% of caregivers continue to work, either full or part-time on top of their caregiving responsibilities. Balancing family, a job and caregiving for a family member, can be incredibly demanding and mentally draining, often leading to burnout.

A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) found that caregivers spend over 24 hours a week on caregiving tasks, with 1 in 4 spending over 40 hours a week, making it equivalent to another full-time job. A job that they are not getting paid for either. Many caregivers face financial challenges, including out-of-pocket expenses for medical supplies, home modifications, and lost income from reduced work hours. The AARP estimates that caregivers spend an average of $7,242 annually on caregiving expenses, adding another layer of stress on top of time management.

Many caregivers handle most responsibilities alone, due to inadequate support systems. Many other family members are unwilling, unable or unsure of what they can do. The NAC reports that nearly one-third of caregivers do not have any outside help.

Caregiving can also take a toll on the caregiver’s physical health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that caregivers are at higher risk for chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Managing one’s own health issues while caring for another can impact their overall well-being, feeling the additional stress to get things done.

Caregivers often experience social isolation due to the demanding hours involved in caring for their loved one. A survey by the NAC found that 40% of caregivers feel isolated because they don’t have time for social activities or maintaining friendships.

By understanding these challenges, caregivers should begin to implement strategies that address these issues head-on.

Essential Time Management Tips

Create a Daily/Weekly Schedule

Start by making a schedule that prioritizes the most critical tasks each day. Again, I recommend these tasks focus on the larger goals (personal hygiene) versus the actual tasks (taking a shower). This helps ensure that the most important duties are completed first, and you can collect your shortcuts to streamline your tasks, like using body wipes. Developing a regular routine can reduce your stress and often helps your loved one as well.

Use Technology to Organize Caregiving Tasks

Apps like Google Calendar, CareZone, CareMobi and Lotsa Helping Hands can help track appointments, manage medications, and organize important documents. There are also all kinds of other smart home technology for seniors that are invaluable. Sharing these tools with family members ensures everyone stays informed and involved. Have you tried using a caregiving app? What difference did it make in your daily routine?

Break Tasks into Manageable Steps

Large tasks can feel overwhelming. Breaking them into smaller, more manageable steps makes them easier to tackle over time. Breaking down large tasks into smaller, do-able chunks can help caregivers feel less overwhelmed and more in control. Each small task completed is a small win and brings a sense of accomplishment. This is also helpful for the senior you are caring for. Large tasks, with many steps, can be too overwhelming, causing them to slow down. Making tasks more manageable helps them follow through, without frustration.

Delegate Responsibilities to Others

Identify tasks that you can delegate to family members or hired help. Match responsibilities to each person’s strengths and availability. Clear communication about expectations minimizes misunderstandings and ensures tasks are completed effectively. The Family Caregiver Alliance emphasizes asking for help more than once, as some family and friends may not immediately understand the level of assistance needed. When I first started delegating tasks, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Delegating tasks can lighten the caregiving load and prevent burnout. Even if you have a family member who lives far away, they can use services like InstaCart or Favor (in my hometown) to order groceries or prepared meals and have them delivered. That is one less thing you have to worry about. You just need to be creative.

Prioritize Self-Care for You

Schedule “me time” first. This might sound counterintuitive, but ensuring you have time for self-care helps prevent burnout and makes you a more effective caregiver. The American Psychological Association notes that caregivers who prioritize their own health and well-being provide better care. The relief of knowing your loved one is well cared for while you still have time to breathe and enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend is invaluable.

Avoid Procrastination

Tackle tasks promptly rather than putting them off for later. This keeps your schedule on track and prevents tasks from piling up. I know it feels good to put it off right now, but tomorrow when you have one additional task to worry about, you will be grateful you got it done.

Be Mindful and Focus on One Task at a Time

Multitasking reduces efficiency. Focusing on one task at a time helps you complete each task more effectively. This is also critical for anyone caring for those with dementia since they have difficulty focusing on more than one task at a time.

By incorporating these tips and leveraging research-backed strategies, you can better manage your time and responsibilities, leading to improved well-being for both you and your loved ones.

Practical Time Saving Tips for Caregivers

Meal Prep and Planning

Once a week, take some time to plan and prepare meals in advance. Cook in bulk and freeze portions to save hours of trying to figure out what they are going to eat and then having to cook throughout the week. And if they live alone, you won’t have worry about them needing to use the stove, and potentially forgetting to turn it off.

Utilize Delivery Services

Use grocery delivery services to save time on shopping. Many supermarkets offer pre-cooked meals,  online ordering and home delivery, which can significantly cut down on the time spent navigating crowded aisles. A study by AARP found that caregivers who use delivery services for groceries and medications save valuable time that can be reallocated to other caregiving tasks or personal rest. Have you tried using delivery services? How has it changed your routine?

Set Up Automatic Payments

Manage finances more efficiently by setting up automatic bill payments. This ensures bills are paid on time and reduces the mental load of keeping track of due dates.

Batch Similar Tasks Together

Group similar tasks to save time. For instance, schedule all medical appointments on the same day or run errands in one trip. This reduces the number of transitions between activities, which can save both time and energy.

Create a Family Calendar

A shared calendar can help coordinate schedules and responsibilities among family members. Tools like Google Calendar allow multiple users to add and view events, ensuring that everyone is aware of appointments, visits, and tasks. This can prevent scheduling conflicts and ensure that no task is overlooked. Have you set up a family calendar? How has it helped you manage caregiving tasks?

Take Advantage of Respite Care

Use respite care to get temporary relief as a primary caregiver, giving you time to rest and recharge. Services can range from a few hours of help each week, to a few days to longer-term care. The ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center can help you find respite care options in your area. There are also VA benefits for respite care for qualifying veterans and their family.

Simplify and Organize

Keep your caregiving environment organized. Label medications, keep important documents in one place, and use organizers for daily tasks. An organized space reduces the time spent looking for items and increases efficiency.

Additional Time Saving Caregiving Tips from Our Caregivers

Use Pre-Sorted Medication Packs

Pharmacies can provide medications in pre-sorted packs by day and time, reducing the risk of missed doses and saving time.

Invest in Adaptive Clothing and Products

Purchase adaptive clothing designed for easy dressing, such as items with Velcro or magnetic closures, to speed up dressing time. There is a whole range of adaptive clothing and equipment options for seniors to make their lives easier.

Label Everything

Clearly label drawers, cabinets, and medication containers to quickly find what you need without searching. Use color-coded labels for medications, schedules, and files to quickly identify important items.

Streamline Communication

Use group messaging apps like WhatsApp to keep family members and other caregivers informed and coordinated.

Install Home Monitoring Systems

Use cameras or sensors to monitor your loved one’s safety remotely, reducing the need for constant physical supervision.

Purchase Multiple Items

Keep duplicates of frequently used items (e.g., reading glasses, keys) in different locations to avoid time spent searching.

Pre-Pack Emergency Kits

Have an emergency kit ready with essentials like medications, change of clothes, contact information, and snacks for unexpected trips.

Create a Calm Environment

Minimize clutter and distractions to create a peaceful environment, making it easier for your loved one to follow routines.

Use a Whiteboard

Keep a whiteboard in a common area to jot down daily tasks, appointments, and reminders for quick reference.

By integrating these practical time-saving tips and leveraging available resources, you can manage your responsibilities more effectively, reducing stress and improving the quality of care you provide to your loved ones.

You’ve got this. By embracing these time management tips, you’re not just surviving the caregiving rollercoaster—you’re mastering it. Remember, every small step you take to organize and streamline your routine makes a world of difference. Celebrate those victories, no matter how small they seem. Your dedication and resilience are the heartbeats that keep this journey moving forward. So, take a deep breath, trust in your ability to adapt and thrive, and know that a well-deserved moment of calm is always within reach. Keep going—you and your loved one are worth every effort.

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