As the aging population continues to increase, especially with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, the need for caregivers has also seen a spike in demand. Many family members and spouses have taken on the role of caregivers to support their loved ones through illness and disease. In fact, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare, more than 65 million people, or roughly 29% of the U.S. population provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend and spends nearly 20 hours per week providing care. While caregiving is a noble undertaking, it certainly comes with unique challenges and obstacles.
Defining Your Role as a Caregiver
For many adults providing care for a loved one, the role of a caregiver can become a major part of one’s identity. In fact, many caregivers struggle with separating their role as a caregiver from their own personal identity. However, it’s important to acknowledge and exercise other ways of identifying themselves. Here are a few ways you can practice setting boundaries, especially when it comes to time management:
Don’t be afraid to express yourself
It can be difficult to process your emotions, especially when you are tasked with supporting and caring for a loved one. Jim Taylor, who writes “Advice for Care Partners” and has been featured in the New York Times, says one of the most important aspects of caregiving or care partnering is to remember to, “honor your own reaction and emotions to the diagnosis. When you need to grieve, grieve.”
Set personal goals
Caregiving can limit the amount of time you have to set aside for yourself and your own personal goals. However, it’s important to make time for these things, too. Finding ways to grow and exercise your talents is important. You might consider setting a few personal goals each week or month, whether it’s writing in your journal or learning how to cook a new dish.
If you’re a caregiver, you’ve probably experienced the feeling of never having enough time in one day. That is certainly a normal feeling. But there are ways to manage your time so you don’t feel so overwhelmed each day. Here are a few time management tips and techniques for caregivers to make it feel less overwhelming and more enjoyable.
Time Management Tips for Caregivers: In the Home
For caregivers who provide care out of their own homes, or who live with the person they are supporting, there are many ways to make sure the home is an area of comfort rather than stress.
Nearly 20% of Alzheimer’s patients exhibit hoarding behaviors that can likely cause safety hazards in the home. In addition, living in a cluttered space can also add difficulty to basic daily tasks like getting dressed or cooking. As you attempt to declutter your loved one’s space, always start by setting a priority and making a plan. For example, if your goal is to reduce the risk of falling, make a series of small plans identifying which items present the most risk. Don’t forget to utilize the help of your family and friends. If you’re unsure if something should be thrown away or kept, you can always ask a family member to hold onto it for a bit of time.
If you find yourself short on time, the best thing to do is to get organized. Here are a few simple ways you can save yourself some time each day:
• Keep all your paperwork and important documents in one location
• Keep a daily to-do list in the same place and update it daily
• Store all medications in the same place and sort them weekly. It can also be helpful to keep a list of all medications being consumed
• Utilize gadgets. There are so many senior-friends tools and resources available for caregivers and their loved ones. For example, if your loved one has trouble getting dressed, you might look into tools that help with buttons, Velcro shoes, and clothing with elastic waistbands
• Keep track of your regular household tasks, like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, and food preparation. Scheduling time in advance for all of these tasks will help you manage your time most efficiently
Focus on Comfort
As the disease progresses, you might find yourself spending more time at home, rather than going out. When this happens, it’s important that the home becomes a place of peace and tranquility, rather than chaos. These simple home modifications can make anyone’s home a place they want to be.
• Install a raised toilet and grab bars for the bathroom and bathtub
• Trade regular door knobs with grab easy alternatives such as lever handles
• Place your loved one’s favorite pictures and memorabilia in easy to see places
• Install monitors and alert systems for those who present wander risks, such as door alarms and motions sensors
• Use bright lighting to reduce the risk of falling
Time Management Tips for Caregivers: For the Day
Staying organized during the day will help you to complete tasks while making room for the unexpected. As you go about your day, keep these tips in mind that will keep stress away.
Organize Your Daily Essentials
It might sound obvious, but keeping your keys, wallet, and other essentials in the same place can actually help you save time and decrease stress as you get ready to head out the door. Nothing is worse than being late for an appointment because your keys are in your pocket instead of in your purse. You might consider keeping these essentials by the door to make it easy to remember. Staying organized helps free up mental space you might need later in the day.
Plan Your Days
As you think about your daily to-do list, it might be helpful to plan out your day while also being mindful that it may not go to plan. Prioritize the most important things first, like doctor’s appointments or refilling medications. Using a large calendar that your loved one can also see can be a great way to make them feel involved and encourage independence over their days.
Time Management for Caregivers: For the Self
Most importantly, caregivers need to make time for themselves. Oftentimes, caregivers forget to take care of themselves, because their main focus is to take care of their loved one. But the truth is, if caregivers don’t help themselves, they can’t help their loved one. If you are a caregiver, use these tips to remember that you are important, too.
• Seek support. Whether you share your concerns and excitements with a friend or a caregiver, it’s important to have someone to talk to
• Create a network of other caregivers to learn from and share with
• Make time for yourself! This means getting enough exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, and making sure to get enough sleep
• Work your own needs into your schedule. Don’t ignore doctor’s appointments and social events, they’re just as important to your health as taking medicine
• Connect with the people you love
Offering Support for Caregivers at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living Communities, we know and appreciate how hard caregivers work to provide support, love, and care to their loved ones. We offer a free six-week Dementia Bootcamp series for caregivers that provides education, tips, resources and support for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you’d like to learn more about this series or the many ways in which we care for caregivers, contact us here,we’d love to talk to you.