This article is based on information provided by Philips Lifeline.
Where does the time go? Caregiving and its endless demands may leave you pondering that question at the end of any given day. You never know quite what you’ll face or how to handle it all when you care for an older loved one with a chronic illness or disability. And then there’s your own self-care to consider.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the following time management strategies can make things easier:
1. Gain Control
It’s natural to feel out of control when you’ve got a lot of balls in the air. So, it’s essential to learn to take control of your situation. Try these approaches:
- Form a schedule to plan your days in advance. Give yourself some wiggle room and include alternate plans in case something falls through. As you’re scheduling, make a list of priorities and try to carry out the most essential tasks first.
- Find a balance between your job and caregiving. Have a discussion with your employer about how to hold onto both areas of your life: take time off, use flex time, work from home, job share, or any other ideas. Inquire about the Family and Medical Leave Act, and access the employee assistance program if your employer offers it.
- Don’t put things off. Establish deadlines and goals to stay on track.
- Have the courage to say “no.” The people who really care about you will get it.
- Organize documents. Make sure to have a copy of all important records in a safe, accessible spot.
2. Maintain Your Focus
Effective time management is a challenge when you take on more than you can handle at once. These tips can help you to focus on what has to get done:
- Don’t get overloaded. Do one thing at a time, one day at a time, and complete what you’re doing before you take on something new.
- Remind yourself that nobody’s perfect. You can’t expect all that you do to be spotless or flawless — simply do the best job you can.
- Find shortcuts and faster or simpler ways of handling tasks.
- Find a place for essential items. Pick a spot for your keys and glasses, wallet and bag, and always keep them there, so you don’t have to look around for them before you head out each day. Doing this frees up some mental space for you to take on tougher challenges. Lists are another excellent way to keep things organized.
- Eliminate distractions. You don’t have to break your train of thought to answer every call, respond to every email, or instantly reply to every Facebook ding.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Care for the caregiver is a crucial part of time management. You can incorporate regular self-care in several ways:
- Exercise. This is among the most important. Walk, run, or do whatever else you enjoy to get in motion daily.
- Eat properly. A balanced diet, moderation, and adequate hydration are all vital to health.
- Get enough rest. Shoot for at least seven hours of sleep on a nightly basis.
- Fit your own needs into the day. Don’t neglect favorite hobbies and other activities that make you happy.
- Keep in contact with the people you love. Don’t lose touch with those who matter to you.
4. Reach Out for Support
Caregiving can be a lonely task, but if you ask, you can find support. Here are ways to avoid isolating yourself:
- Rely on your support system. Trust that others will do their part, and, if possible, give your older loved one an active role to play.
- Delegate responsibilities. If you have family or friends who want to assist but aren’t sure how, let them know what you need.
- Form a care network. Seek out family, community, government and other resources and explore how they can help.
You don’t have to be overwhelmed by the caregiver juggling act. When you reorganize somewhat, you’ll find that your busy days frazzle you less and that things begin to run more like, well—clockwork.