When caring for a loved one feels overwhelming, time management tips for caregivers can help.
Do you ever wish you had more time in the day to get things done? Time often gets away from us, but it can feel especially elusive to busy family caregivers helping a loved one. It can be a challenge to remember all of the care tasks that need to be performed, and a long list can feel overwhelming and may lead to caregiver stress or burnout. When caring for a loved one, learning how to manage your time can help you enjoy being together while getting things done. Time management tips for caregivers can help alleviate some of the daily stress and help you provide more effective care for loved ones and for yourself.
Amy Goyer, a family caregiver for over 35 years and AARP writer, recommends the following top tips for busy family caregivers:
Top Time Management Tips for Caregivers
- Carve out time for self-care – Make sure to schedule in some “me time,” so you don’t forget to practice self-care. When caregiving, it is easy to get caught up in a busy day and to forget to care for yourself. Self-care is especially important for busy family caregivers to reduce stress and the risk of caregiver burnout. The airplane analogy of putting your oxygen mask on before helping someone else with theirs applies to family caregiving too. When you take care of yourself and your needs, you will be calmer and in a better mindset to help a loved one. Self-care can be time with friends, exercise, a massage, enjoying a favorite hobby, or whatever helps you feel more refreshed and ready for the day.
- Plan ahead – Planning ahead can help reduce stress and make your day more efficient. It takes only a few minutes to prepare before an appointment or to check to see if supplies or medications are running low. By planning a bit, you can avoid hectic runs to the store when something runs out.
- Be clear on roles and responsibilities – When multiple family members are involved in caregiving, it is important to be clear who is responsible for each task. Defining roles can help make sure you aren’t duplicating efforts and wasting time as well as making sure nothing gets missed.
- Use a list, and set priorities – When feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose focus, forgetting what needs to get done. Making a to-do list can be a helpful way to plan and organize your day, and checking things off can help you feel more accomplished. Be prepared to adjust the list as needed throughout the day though. You can even set priorities by choosing the top few items that need to be completed, to make the list easier to manage. When you know where to start, it’s easier to get going! Your list can be written out on paper, or there are many great task management apps available for electronic devices.
- Avoid procrastination – Putting off a task can actually make it harder and take up more mental energy each time you think about or avoid doing the task. Just do it, and you’ll save yourself some time and hassle.
- Have realistic expectations – When you make your to-do list, make sure it’s not impossible. It can be tempting to throw too many items onto the list, but doing so will likely set you up for feelings of failure when you can’t finish them all. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and for your day. No one can do it all, and you don’t have to be perfect. Think about what really needs to be done on that specific day, and make your list accordingly. You may find tasks that can be done on a different day or skipped altogether! There may even be tasks that can be outsourced with outside help.
- Be mindful – In our busy lives, we tend to think that we have to multitask to get everything done. In fact, being mindful, and focusing on one thing at a time, actually makes you more focused and efficient because you’re less distracted. If you’re spending time with a loved one, enjoy the time together instead of worrying about what you have to do that afternoon. Complete one task, and move on to the next instead of trying to do everything at once.
- Touch it once – Small things have a habit of multiplying and can seem bigger than they are if we put off doing them. Deal with the small stuff immediately instead of adding it to a to-do list or waiting until later. For example, when the mail comes in, look through it to see what’s important, file what’s needed, and toss or recycle what isn’t. If you bring the mail in and put it aside, you’ll spend twice the energy and time when you go to deal with it later.
- Declutter or organize – Our stuff can cause stress. Having more items in the home means we have more things to deal with—to clean, put away, or sort through. When you declutter, or reduce the excess items around you, it takes less time to find things when you need them. You don’t have to get rid of everything or do it all at once! Start small, and work in small increments—focus on one pile, box, or closet at a time. One strategy is to first make piles of things to keep or to remove, whether that’s throwing out, donating, or recycling, and then dealing with the piles. You can even hire a home organizer to help make the process easier.
- Plan for the unexpected – Life is unpredictable, and things will come up that aren’t on the schedule. Have the mindset that this is likely to happen, and it’ll be easier to handle changes when they occur.
These time management tips for caregivers can help you manage your day more easily. If the ongoing demands of caregiving still feel like too much to manage, looking into respite care services can help. A professional caregiver can help for a few hours or more by providing services that give busy family caregivers a break when needed. Knowing that a loved one is being well cared for while you take care of yourself can be comforting and reassuring.
Our compassionate St. Charles caregivers are available for a variety of caregiving services including companion care, respite care, personal care, and dementia care. Contact us online or by phone at (636) 493-9058 to learn more about how our in-home services can help you while also caring for someone you love. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.