By francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear Francy; I have never been very organized and now I have college kids, husband, dogs, home, job schedules and just added caring for mom and her schedule. Where is “the me” in all of this?
I understand and although it may seem like your the me has faded into the background and rarely has a time or place to surface; I think these tips will help. The simple answer to parenting or care giving is that keeping track and reminding everyone of events and keeping the home and persons clean – is really the most important part of the job. It is also the most exhausting. When the kids are young and go a million directions each day and make a mess at each station – you are usually young too. You have had more energy and more brain function to handle the stress. Now, time moves on for all of us and you have even more tasks on your plate and more people pulling you in different directions. So as you once did daily life with little or no planned organization – NOW time has changed and you have to get a grip on your daily to do’s so you do have time for the me inside to take a good soak bath or just a quiet time with your spouse after dinner.
Roll up your sleeves – because if you’re caring for an elder or your own spouse you need to begin the organized path for all of your own and your family’s health and well being:
- Do it Your Way – Calendars are a must. You have a choice, you can do it online or with your cell and keep a calendar and the reminders buzzing helping you stay on the program. Or, you can write it down on a wall calendar or daily planner. Whatever fits your needs- use it. But remember, you need a calendar!
- Repeat a program and put everyone on a similar schedule. If you do laundry on Monday nite after work, your college kids, and husband need to know they have to have their stuff there and in place so you can do the laundry not collect sort and fold the laundry. Be practical, do the laundry for each person so you do not have to sort and then have them fold it. Call your senior and remind them of the laundry day and ask them how many loads and such, so you know they are also on the program for the day. This is how you keep it simple, do not adjust to five different schedules, make others adjust to yours and it will go so much smoother. (Remember; this way or the highway and the highway is them doing their own laundry wo/your help. Be strong – you do the work, you set the rules and schedules) Set the basic cleaning, house and personal stuff on the calendar and then repeat and repeat. That is how the process gets easier because they all get it drilled into their head that Monday is laundry, Tuesday is outside the house chore day, Wed is clean house day, Thursday is zip, Friday is family time, Sat is visit and help senior day, Sunday is quiet and recover day. Make up your days, but make them clear and repeat each week. Say No to things that do not fall on the right day so you do not wide up feeling exhausted. Or just float a day into the next Friday and move on. But try hard to stick to your days and your family will adjust and follow suit.
- Remind everyone of the different chores of the week. Then stick to them. After a few weeks it will all gel and get so much easier. I know that garbage is Tuesday at our house, but I still have it marked on my wall calendar each week. I would always have mother’s garbage day marked on my calendar too…so when we spoke the night before I could get her to remember, or stop by to put it out on the curb myself. I love using wall calendars, they make my days easier. I do use a daily calendar in my office on the desk, but that is reserved for most of my work related information. I keep Birthday and events, appointments on the web so I get reminders and anything that involves another person in the family is up on the wall calendar.
- Appointments are hard to manage in a busy life, so you will have to pick a day during the week and on Saturday for doctor appointments for your senior. You will find that if you pick the day and tell the doctor’s office this is your day for appointments they will find one for you. Your life will be much smoother. Remember seniors that need care do not do well before 10 AM or after 4 PM so work within those boundaries. Bring your Medical spiral notebook that’s just used for doctor appointments for your parent or spouse. This way you have all the information in your bag or car and you’re ready to take notes and ask questions. Time for appointments is usually 2-3 hours. You have to drive, transfer, do the appointment, wait, do the tests or drug store run, drive back and maybe do a quick stop for a treat for the senior. So do not think your lunch hour is enough, it will take longer than you think. (I have a great E book called Senior’s Doctor Visits Check List that gives you all sorts of ideas for better appointment and doctor interactions – you will find it on my site clicking on Products.)
- I made a deal with myself that on days that I take someone to the doctor, I only do two more chores along the way and one of them is passive, like eating. It really takes a lot of energy to collect a senior and keep totally concentrated on their wellbeing and their appointment information. So to add a shopping trip or a few more stop and pick up this or that… is way to much for me. My mom would get home and be happy about her day and I would get home and be exhausted and still facing the evening with making dinner and the usual night time tasks. So, keep yourself well and do not over book your senior drive day.
- If you’re cleaning your home than wait a couple of days before you go over to your senior’s home and clean theirs. I remember the depression I would have from trying to get my house work caught up and then driving over to my mother’s or other senior’s places and do the same thing all over again. I learned to separate my own cleaning on a day that I would not be doing cleaning for someone else. I had to preserve my energy and my mental attitude.
- Start each day with a review of what is happening on the calendar and then you are ready for your morning check-in call for your senior. You can remind them that this is a “get the garbage ready to go out day”. This is a “get the refrigerator clean so we can go to the store tomorrow day”. That way you give the senior chores they can do to ready their home for you to come and quickly get the rest of the chores finished. Then go ahead and ask your usual daily questions about all around health and reminders for pills, food and such. This way, you give them something to do for you…that’s always the key. When you work with parents always ask them to do you a favor. “Mother, I’m stopping by tonight on the way home- to put out the garbage can and give you a hug. Would you please get your waste baskets all empted and put into a trash bag and I will run in and chat and then take out the garbage. Hey, how about I bring you a hamburger and shake for dinner, sound good?” That is the way you get it done, ask for a favor, remind them of the task and reward them for their efforts.
- Saying NO. There are times when things you do for a senior are important and have to go on the top of your list. Then there are times when the senior is lonely and they think of things to get you over to visit them in-between your normal days. This has to be contained or you will lose your ability to multitask successfully. Sort out the pleas of I need help. Let the senior know you will be there in two days and you can add that to your task list. I got mother a nice white board and she would write down things that she needed me to do. Each time I visited, I would cross off a few and then delegate a few more and finish the rest at the next visit. Delegate is to call a sibling or your spouse and ask them to do a certain chore that you know they can do or afford to provide. This keeps you from feeling like you are holding the whole world together (even if you are!)
- Each season comes with extra tasks and the best thing to do is keep them connected. If you are going to have someone clean your gutters, then ask the same person do clean your senior’s home and share the cost. If you are going to change the batteries on your fire alarms or heating unit filters, do the same at your seniors. Spring time is always a good excuse to clean out closets. Hire a family member to help you and get your closets clean and clothes and linens to the charity store and do the same for your senior. The response to cleaning out things for seniors is always hard; they hate change and do not want to give away anything. But, if you show them you did your home first, they know the fork lift is coming through their closets, next. It makes it easier for them to adjust. If you do it year in and year out. It becomes an accepted norm. But remember the routine, ask them to help you, get the task done, then reward them. So the closet and old clothes are gone. But the shopping for a few new things goes on the calendar so they see they have a reward coming.
- Getting organized does not always mean cleaning up the office and linen closet. It means that from this day forward you will start with a clean slate and make new rules for your life style. Once the rules are in place, you will have the same day each week for that yoga class, or long nap after work, or favorite TV show that you taped. And still get things done and feel in charge. Organizing brings a sense of control over your normal crazy life. It means that you live in the now, with an eye on your future. That way you can emotionally enjoy your life, not just suffer through another day. Live strong within your mind, body and spirit and that will reflect off onto your family, spouse and senior or parent.
Blessings on all that you do, because YOU keeping strong / gives your family the ability to live their lives feeling calm and joyful.
I hope this has helped you with ideas. Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.
I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one, blessings. francy
PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.