According to a recent study by the National Caregiver Alliance and AARP, there are approximately 43.5 million caregivers in the U.S. and 60% of those caregivers are employed, most of them full time.
Between work, caring for another person and maintaining their own household, it’s no wonder the majority of the respondents reported that they experience physical and emotional stress. Between their job and caregiving, they are putting in at least 60 hours a week!
If you’re not able to cut back work or caregiving hours, how can you balance the two? Shortcuts, hacks and letting things go is a good start. Here are my best timesavers and hacks that I’ve used during extremely stressful and busy times.
Eat as well as I can:
I’d love to say, hey, get your 5 servings of vegetables and fruits in every day, but let’s face it, when you’re busy, the easiest food to eat is usually junk food or processed food. When I’m super busy, I try to make sure we’re stocked with portable healthy snacks such as granola bars, string cheese, yogurt, bananas, tangerines and apples. Aside from the yogurt and cheese, I can throw them in my bag or leave them in my car.
Cook in bulk:
It isn’t the most exciting way to eat, but I usually cook two or three large meals at the beginning of the week and we re-heat throughout the week. You can see my meal prep shortcuts here.
Sunday or Monday plan:
I once read an article about a woman who keeps her Mondays appointment free so that she could prepare herself for a successful week. Monday doesn’t work for most people who have a full-time job, but for me, Sunday evening is a great time to plan for the week.
I personally prefer a paper calendar for planning, although I keep an electronic calendar so that I have it on my phone as well. For planning, I look at both and go through the days of the week and make sure we are covered for any appointments and activities. I bought this dry erase decal for my stainless steel refrigerator that I use for any appointments that affect more than one person so my husband and I are on the same page.
If you are scheduling yourself and your parent, you may want to color code your schedule. One thing that tripped up a lot of my clients and their children was backing up times to allow for transportation. There were many times where they would accidentally leave for an appointment at the time they were supposed to arrive. One of my clients who was an executive assistant in her career had a great idea of putting her pick up time in pen and underneath, she would write the appointment time in pencil. I am hooked on these Bic four color pens since I can easily color-code without having to have multiple pens. They last forever. I have been using the same one for 2 years now.
If you are so busy that you are barely getting through the day, making sure the little things continue to run is important, but challenging. Go ahead and put your car maintenance on your calendar ahead of time so that you don’t forget. The last thing you need is an expensive car repair. Are there other things you need to maintain? Think about what needs to be done to keep your life running smoothly and put it on your calendar before you forget – both for your home and your parent.
Maximize your work day:
If you have to be in an office for eight hours a day, use your lunch or breaks to get some tasks done. During your planning time, list out any appointments you need to make (with phone numbers and any background info), shop for groceries online and do any other task that you don’t need to do in person. If you have your list and all the details ready to go, you can blaze through your list.
If you don’t sit at a desk or don’t work at a computer, you can still take your lunch break to make any calls, set up appointments, etc. You can also shop on Amazon Prime Now from your cell phone.
Find off-hour service providers:
While most doctors only operate from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., there are some dentists and even medical imaging centers that are open late or on weekends. I once had an MRI at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. Try to find providers that operate when you have more time for you and your parent so that you don’t need to use all of your time off for routine care.
I worked with a family who had a creative strategy for medical appointments. They hired us to transport the father to and from his appointment, but the daughter met him there, attended the appointment and went back to work. She only needed to take one hour off of work, versus 3 hours if she was providing transportation.
Can you find ways to be present without doing everything? Can you schedule appointments early in the morning so that you only miss an hour of work. Is there someone you can split the load with? Do you have a friend, neighbor or community member who has more free time and can assist with some of the manageable tasks like grocery shopping or errands? Is there someone you can hire to help with the errands? I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard of sites like Task Rabbit, where you can hire someone to do errands for you.
You can’t do it all, so finding shortcuts or getting help can help take some of the stress off your plate. How can you find a few extra hours?
For more caregiver shortcuts, check out this post on balancing caregiving for the sandwich generation,which covers everything from meal prep, grocery shopping and laundry.
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