Caring for an elderly loved one brings many challenges. One such challenge is simply how to manage your time effectively. This is particularly true if you are in the ‘sandwich generation’ caring for both your elderly parents and dependent children who are still at home.
Standard time management tips may not be useful here, so we’ve put together a list of tips for how to manage your time when you’re caring for elderly parents. The goal is that you should feel less frantic and burned out, and more in control.
When you’ve got multiple pressures on your time it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Perhaps you’re juggling taking your parent shopping and to the chiropodist whilst making sure you’re not late for your child’s school performance, let alone a work deadline.
Your first step is to empty your mind of the pressure that all these floating obligations is causing. The simplest way to do this is by keeping lists. By writing down everything you need to do you can then also prioritise what is necessary, what can wait, and what can be ditched altogether or done differently.
When you use a list you may also find that you can more easily work out what you can delegate, and we’ll come on to the importance of that now.
It’s important to be realistic. You are unlikely to be able to do everything for everyone without jeopardising your own physical or mental wellbeing. It’s vital, when caring for elderly parents, that you become a pro at delegation.
In our experience, the single biggest barrier to successful delegation is that many carers don’t know who to delegate to, or indeed who they can call on for help. This is understandable as at the moment it may feel like everyone is relying on you alone.
But there is help available. For example, even if a sibling lives a long way away they can still do online shopping for their parent. They can also call their parent to help balance your parent’s demands on your time because of loneliness.
Then there are local charities and support groups. For example, there may be patient volunteer transport who can take your parent to a hospital appointment to give you a break.
The biggest form of delegation will come when you decide it is time for your parent to move in to a care home. You can find out more about when is the right time to put your loved one in a care home and know that it will often be a positive experience, allowing you to regain a more balanced relationship with your parent once more.
If your parent is home alone for much of the day, or perhaps has moved in with you, then it’s vital that you regularly consider safety. This is perhaps most important when elderly individuals and young children are living together under the same roof.
You can follow our advice on how to keep your elderly relative safe at home and also speak to your local council about getting a care needs assessment completed. These are good first steps to keeping everyone safe. You’ll then know what action you need to take.
Caring for an elderly parent, such as perhaps taking care of their bills and medical appointments, can result in a vast amount of paperwork. Quickly this can get out of hand. Therefore, create a filing system for everything to do with your parent. This will ensure you don’t waste time looking for things, but instead can find them right away.
Another important part of organising with your elderly parent is to plan things in advance. This will help you both cope if there is an emergency. For example, get in touch with utility companies and other organisations that have dealings with your parent and arrange to be an authorised person that they will speak to. You may also want to look in to becoming their power of attorney so that you are able to act quickly without being hindered by bureaucratic red tape.
You will burn out if you only give and never top up your own reserves. Caring for others is draining so it is vital that you have support for yourself.
On a practical level this can be something as simple as making sure you know a trusted handyman who can help with practical tasks, or have a list of reliable trades people, taxi drivers and more.
It also means ensuring that you have friends and relatives around you who are looking out for your wellbeing. Perhaps they can give you a break from your caring responsibilities? Or even just a change of scene for an evening? Often you will find that people are willing to help but they need to be asked to do a specific task – don’t be afraid to ask.
Now is the time to drop aspirations of perfection. You need to be a ‘good enough’ carer by realising that you are not superhuman and can only do your best. For example, whilst your parent may have always sent birthday cards to all and sundry, you don’t need to take that on for them now. Perhaps, for example, realise that a take away when you’re too exhausted to cook won’t harm anyone.
Caring is an act which needs to be sustained over a period of time and it’s impossible to do that if you set the bar too high. Aim to be ‘good enough’ and you’ll be less likely to get burned out and instead sustain the care provision that’s needed.
Central to being ‘good enough’ and managing the demands of caring for a parent is learning to say no. When you are used to being the person that everyone calls on, from your child’s school PTA to your sibling requesting you buy something for them, it can be difficult to change.
However, in order to manage all of the demands on your time that your caring responsibilities bring, you will need to say no. Keep focused on the things you need to do and say no to those which aren’t important right now. This way you should be able to carve out some time for yourself each day.
If caring for your elderly parent is too complex or you are worried for their wellbeing, safety, or your own, then it may be time to consider more permanent help. Find out more about our Somerset care homes and North Devon care homes to discover how we can support the whole family.