Time is definitely a precious commodity for a family caregiver. There often isn’t enough time we need or want to do, so we need to make difficult choices about how we spend the hours of our day. My hope is that you recognize that giving all your time to others without replenishing will lead to caregiver burnout. Yes, something on your plate has to give in order to allow you to help care for others — but it can’t be your own health and happiness.
Instead, family caregivers must get creative with managing their time in order to carve out nooks and crannies in each day to recharge. Learning how to save time as a caregiver will often mean you feel better while also providing better care.
Here are 10 time saving tips and advice for family caregivers.
- Say “no” or “not now” This tip will give you the most bang for your buck. Huge chunks of time will become available when you no longer do an activity or don’t add a new one to your to-do list. Admittedly, saying “no” to those who want your time or service can be difficult. Instead, try saying “not now” or “I’m in a crazy season of life and can’t take that on right now”. You are already volunteering and providing community service with your time — you are caring for others.
- Reduce or eliminate email Digital email clutter can make you dread opening your inbox. Consider a free time saving tool like unroll.me to help you gain control of your inbox by seeing a list of all your subscription emails. Decide if you still want to receive the subscription. If you do, then choose to see them in a daily one email digest or as they come in. Time not spent sorting through email clutter is time available for other things.
- Batch everyday activities We repeat similar tasks every day and every week like meal planning, meal prepping, packing lunches, laying out clothes and grocery shopping. Batching these activities saves time versus doing them as they’re needed. Some ideas to get you started: chop vegetables all at once and store in containers, wash and bag up grapes, portion out salads in mason jars and lay out clothes for the week.
- Purchase essentials online With a couple of clicks mom’s personal care items are delivered to the appropriate destination quickly and conveniently. This saves a lot of time versus going to the store. You can also save time by creating a profile where you shop and saving shipping and payment information. Mom’s credit card is saved in my profile which makes remembering to be repaid for purchased supplies a non-issue.
- Divide & conquer to-do list items We are seldom completely alone in this journey. We have family members, friends, professional staff and work associates who could help but may not know how. Make lists of every regular chore and divvy up the responsibilities. Keep the items you enjoy doing or that you must do. Everything else is up for reassignment.
- Combine activities Look for “twofers” — two activities on your to-do list that you can combine. Have an exercise date with your spouse or a girlfriend. Listen to the book club book while commuting to work. As long as you can provide adequate focus to each one, multi-tasking to save time is one of the most effective (and enjoyable) methods.
- Stay organized Immediately put appointment and activity dates on your shared family Google calendar (and toss out the papers!). Add healthcare paperwork to a designated binder. Keep one list of prescriptions with you to reference when you need it. Create lists for activities that repeat so you don’t have to reinvent a new list each time (e.g. packing lists, daily schedule for your family member, etc.). The time spent on organizing will be more than made up for later.
- Discuss options with professionals Let your doctors and other professionals know what you are dealing with as far as appointments for you and your other family members. Discuss ways to streamline your time by combining appointments, being open to call in prescriptions for repeat ailments or allowing family members to bring in urine samples to test for infection without bringing in the patient with mobility issues. Ask around for hairdressers and podiatrists that make house calls.
- Streamline family communication Caringbridge.org offers a great service to help family and friends stay connected during a chronic illness or hospitalization. Set up the journal one time and add your updates to keep everyone informed. This also gives family and friends a place to share their messages. Other family members can also be administrators to add updates. For updates when a crisis is not at hand, set up a group family text. Not needing to text everyone individually is a huge time saver.
- Simplify gift giving Talk to your direct family members about simplifying gift giving. Perhaps you only buy extended family gifts if you are present for their occasion. Not only are you saving time but money as well. Other possible ideas include:
- Make financial donations on behalf of your neighbors during the holiday season instead of baking cookies.
- Celebrate birthdays and anniversaries by making a new memory instead of searching for the perfect gift.
- Always say “yes” when asked if you’d like to participate in the group shower, graduation or office gift event.
Need a few more tips to help reclaim your precious time? Click here to receive my “Help I Need More ME Time” resource directly to your inbox.
About the Author
Elizabeth Miller is a family caregiver and a Certified Caregiving Consultant (CCC). Her personal experiences caring for aging parents with chronic and terminal illnesses as well as caring for a sibling with developmental disabilities (while working full-time and raising teenagers) inspired her to create Happy Healthy Caregiver. Elizabeth is a national speaker, workshop leader and global advocate for family caregivers. Through her consulting services and free resources, Elizabeth helps family caregivers integrate caregiving with their busy lives. She also leads the Atlanta Daughterhood Circle — a social support group for family caregivers.