Today, we welcome guest blogger, Christine Klotz, author of All-In Caregiving: A Guide for the Care of Aging Parents.
Providing care and support for a family member or other loved one takes time that you just might feel you don’t have. You have your own life that is full, and frankly often feels too full. You want to spend time with your spouse or partner, and maybe you have children living with you too.
You might even be caught in the sandwich generation. People have been having children at later ages for a couple of decades so it is entirely possible that you have an aging parent who needs your help while you still have teenagers who still need your time. And it is likely you have a job that demands many other hours in a week.
That doesn’t include friends, clubs, special interests or perhaps religious organizations you want to continue. So how do you do it all. Admittedly this is challenge and will become a more difficult one as your aging parent needs more help.
Here are some time saving ideas you can use to squeeze a bit more time out of your day.
Time Saving Tip One. Make a Schedule and Keep a “To-Do” List.
The more you organize your life the less time you will spend thinking about what you need to do next. Once a day, or once a week, review your plan. What are the tasks you need to complete and what things can wait until another day? Can you take care of errands in one trip instead of making multiple trips? A schedule means you are less likely to forget something and it will give you a better sense of the order of errands.
You might find making a paper list or noting things on your calendar helps. Some people add even very small tasks to their calendar. If you prefer to use technology there are quite a few different smart-phone apps to help you manage your tasks and daily schedule. They can keep track of repeat events and due dates. You can even set reminder messages and alarms.
Time Saving Tip Two. Use Technology to Help with Shopping.
Getting a bit more specific with how technology can help, there are not just apps that help you keep track of your “to-do” list. There are tech solutions that go a step further. Tech solutions can help you make sure your parent has medical supplies, groceries, and other things they need.
A grocery app, for example, can help you keep track of both the things you need in your home and the things your parent needs. It is easy to set up different lists. The things you purchase routinely can be stored in memory so they can be quickly added the next time they are needed. If you save the list on-line others can also access the list. If others help with caregiving you can all share the list so whoever goes shopping has access to the list without making a trip to check for needs.
These apps have a lot of flexibility and using them will be faster and more complete than maintaining paper lists.
Time Saving Tip Three. Use Other On-Line and Delivery Services.
Many pharmacies and grocery stores provide shopping services. In some cases that even means home delivery. This service may include a fee but a fee that saves you making an extra trip to the store may be well worth it. Pharmacies more often provide this service to deliver medications but, who knows, they may include other items from their store.
Of course there are lots of other ways to shop online. It seems you can order just about anything these days to be delivered to your door.
Another on-line service will eliminate the need to make payments with paper checks. With access to your parent’s bank account you can set up bill pay service. Bill pay services allow you to log in to the bank account and request payments. You can also use what is called ACH payments. You authorize a company like the utility company to access your parent’s account to pay utility bills. To do this you complete a form and provide bank account information. When the bill is due the company makes an electronic transfer of the funds from the account to pay the bill. You don’t have to do anything.
Time Saving Tip Four. Organize Medical Supplies and Medications.
Most pharmacies will work with you to organize your parent’s medications. Using automatic refill orders means refills are ready and waiting when needed. A pharmacy may also work with you to coordinate a schedule for refills so fewer trips are to pick up medications. When your parent takes medications that are expected to stay the same over time, you can simplify by requesting 90 day supplies. This can be arranged through the pharmacy or through a related mail order pharmacy. Your parent’s Medicare Part D coverage will tell you what pharmacy is preferred for this service.
To manage this you and your parent should start with a complete list of every medication and medical supply she uses. This should include both prescriptions drugs and over-the-counter medications and supplements. This list should include what is taken, when it is taken, and special instructions. If you keep a list of medications and supplies you will notice more easily when something is running low.
Using pill sorters will save time as well as help ensure your parent is taking the medications they have in their care plan. Opening pill bottles to take out pills doesn’t take long but the time adds up when most older adults take a dozen medications or more. Some pharmacies will even put the pills into pill boxes for their customers.
Time Saving Tip Five. Plan Easy Meals with Left-Overs.
You can simplify meal preparation for yourself, your family and possibly for your parent.
When you prepare meals make more than you need. Store the left-overs for later in the week, put servings into the freezer or even take meals to your parent’s home.
Of course not every meal needs to be home-cooked. There are an amazing assortment of prepared foods available in most grocery stores. The frozen foods section typically has a large area devoted to frozen meals. If your family or your parent have to watch salt levels you will need to be careful about prepared foods but in most cases even the occasional pizza is a welcome time saver.
One other option for meals is to consider home delivered meals for your parent. Your local Aging and Disabilities Office or Aging Office will either provide this service or know who does. A home-delivered meal service will deliver a complete meal to your parent’s house typically five days a week. The meals just have to be heated up in a microwave.
Time Saving Tip Six. Ask for Help.
Think about all the people in your life and the people in your parent’s life too. Talk it over with your parent and you will be likely to find there are friends and family members who could help you. Some might be willing to provide routine support while others might only be able to provide occasional help. Every small bit of help will save you time.
You can also check in with community organizations. Some religious organizations have outreach and volunteer programs designed to help congregation members in need. Other community organizations may have helpful services. Some provide free services by volunteers while others might charge fees.
When you look for ways to enlist others to help you, be sure to include support for yourself too. You need time to recharge your emotional energy. This might just be time for you to take a nap or read a book, or it could be time to meet with a friend for lunch. If you are worn down by carrying the whole burden of your parent’s needs you will not be able to be the kind of daughter or son you want to be.
Time Saving Tip Seven. Reduce Medical Appointments.
It is not uncommon for a medical appointment to end with the doctor saying, “Good. There are no changes in your parent’s condition in the past few months, so I want to see her again in three months.” You can ask why and argue for six months. You can ask what to watch for that would mean you should come in sooner. You may find that this will work just fine.
If your mother’s doctor uses online communication with patients you can ask about sending in information or perhaps calling the office nurse. Sometimes an in-person visit is not needed and you can avoid the time it takes to arrange all the details of an office visit in your life and hers.
You can also plan your time to include more than one appointment in a day. Some of the challenge is often helping your parent get ready and out the door. Once you are out you could take advantage of that, accomplish more than one thing, and save a second trip.
Time Saving Time Eight. Shift to “It’s Good Enough.”
This is a hard challenge for some people. You want to do everything possible to help your parent be clean, comfortable and safe. So you may help with personal care, laundry and house cleaning. I have known people who believed the trash needed to be taken out every day, the dishes washed as soon as a meal is done, and laundry done as soon as a load accumulated, just to mention a few household tasks. But perhaps just a bit less is okay too.
For example, consider how often sheets and towels need to be changed and washed. Some people do this often washing bath towels after every use. There are two thoughts here. One is how often should your parent bathe. The second is how often should the towels be washed.
Bathing more frequently has many benefits from the positive sensations of feeling clean and frankly just smelling better. But frequent washing also removes oils from skin and can be hard on older skin. So perhaps waiting another day for a bath or shower would work.
And perhaps waiting another day to wash the towels also works. Some people only wash towels every couple of weeks. That may be too long but adding a day or two to your current practice reduces the frequency of a time consuming task.
The same goes for sheets. Health
experts recommend washing sheets once a week, but to save time you might
consider a day or two longer. Changing just a pillowcase more often might be a
reasonable solution if the sheets haven’t become soiled.
These are just a few ideas to consider to help you find a few more minutes in the day. Once you gain this additional time there are many ways to use it. Hopefully one way, at least occasionally, is to just have a quiet time with your parent. With no demands, no pressure, just a time to spend sharing a moment.
Christine Klotz, guest blogger and author of All-In Caregiving: A Guide for the Care of Aging Parents.