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October 3, 2019 Caregivers

Caring for someone else often starts with caring for oneself. Learn how to manage your time, stay organized, and practice self-care to avoid the overwhelm with our tips for caregivers.

One of the most important roles we can play in another’s life is that of a Caregiver. Choosing the path of a professional caregiver is one of the most honorable and selfless professions out there! The goal of an experienced Registered Nurse or Nursing Assistant is to provide the best quality care to patients and their families. 

The responsibilities of a caregiver can be diverse, touching on many aspects of the care journey. This role can include providing support in the stages of chronic disease or terminal illness, to engaging with patients and families in their care plan. Assisting in daily activities such as meal preparation, running errands, exercise, or light housekeeping may also be associated with this role. And a trusted caregiver will undoubtedly provide companionship.

Caring for our elderly population can be rewarding and frustrating at the same time. Aiding in someone’s well-being, helping to keep seniors safe and bringing joy is gratifying, but caring for multiple elderly patients can also bring complexities that can challenge your stamina, patience, and organizational skills.

So, how can you manage the emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving that can strain even the most resilient person? Below are a few caregiving tips and hacks to stay organized and as stress-free as possible.

Time Management Tips for Caregivers

The best way to stay organized is to manage your time in the most efficient and effective way possible. Many caregivers are on the road visiting multiple patients in various locations. Each care receiver will have different needs such as medication schedules, doctor appointments, physical therapy assistance, and more. There will also be scheduled meetings with family members to provide updates on the care provided. 

1. Implement a Calendar

Most providers have typical daily/weekly/monthly routines that are carried out for each patient. Having a map of your day will keep these routines systematic and hopefully help you run like clockwork.

What type of calendar is a personal preference; paper-based calendar notebooks such as Day-At-A-Glance have plenty of space for each patient name, time of visits, doctor appointments, errands, and family meetings. For the technically savvy, there are great online options that can provide email notifications and text alerts, automatic reminders for recurring appointments, tasks, and one-time events. 

Selecting the best type to suit your style is essential in how well you will use this tool. Set a time each week to review your daily schedule, outline how you will manage your to-do list, and check for conflicts. In doing this, you will stay on task.

2. Prioritize Responsibilities

Understanding the true nature of a senior’s needs can sometimes be challenging. The more time you spend with each patient, the more they come to depend on and value the relationship. With extended families in far-flung places, a care provider may be a primary source of companionship.  

Spending the “allotted” amount of time with each individual to attend to primary tasks while providing a social connection is the primary objective. The temptation to overstay on a routine visit is natural when you know a patient may be lonely. If you have a senior you know will need some extra TLC, build this time into your calendar. 

Dividing your time between patients, satisfying all of their needs, and doing so without compromising care or compassion is a skill. Mastering the use of a daily calendar, anticipating changes due to unexpected occurrences and being consistent will prove to be effective. 

3. Remember: Family Members are Part of the Team

Building a relationship with family members of the care receiver is as important as the one you develop with the senior. They will rely on you for communication between physicians, home health administrators, and sometimes the senior themselves.  

Get to know the family members and their “dynamics.” Express an interest in their concerns regarding their loved one’s care. Recognize challenges they may face in being present (full-time jobs, distance, etc.). Doing so will build trust and reassure them you are there to support them as well.

Keeping an open and honest line of communication will reassure family members their loved one is in good hands, particularly for those who live far away. How often you provide updates may be challenging when multiple members expect updates and questions answered. 

Your availability to family members when they are in need will be critical to the nature of the relationship. Minimizing schedule disruptions such as multiple inquiries is also essential in efficient time management. Planning family updates and scheduling them into your master calendar will not only assure family members they will be kept in the loop but will also aid in task management. Designate one family member, if possible, to be the point person, and they can disseminate information to the rest of the family. 

Keep Written Journals 

Most home health care services keep detailed patient care files internally. To maintain written journals for each patient for your reference, as well as for family members and potential substitutes, could prove to be invaluable. Each patient folder should include:

  • Name, address, and social security # of the patient (sometimes needed for doctors’ appointments).
  • Designated family members in the care plan, including phone numbers. 
  • A record of all medications and the schedule for administering. 
  • Any allergies the patient may have.
  • Previous medical issues.
  • Copies of health insurance cards, ie. Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Social and food likes and dislikes.
  • Behaviors and sensitivities.

Trained caregivers are prepared to act accordingly in the event of an emergency; however, to recall all this pertinent information from memory is not only next to impossible but dangerous. Having this file handy is a necessary tool.

There will be times when the primary caregiver is unable to make the visit. Caregivers do succumb to colds and other illnesses from time to time and hopefully will take a vacation now and then. If someone is pinch-hitting, the senior patient may feel out of sorts, but having this valuable information to guide the substitute can help make the visit as comfortable as possible.

Take Care of Yourself

 “There is a reason air travelers are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks before tending to a child’s: you are better able to take care of others when your own physical condition is secure.” – Harvard Women’s Health Watch 

Caregiver strain is a real thing! Most professional caregivers balance the responsibilities of their personal life along with the many demands of their professional life. Incorporating time to exercise, eat healthy meals, and get the proper amount of sleep may seem impossible, but necessary to be your best self.

Recognize your concerns if they are interfering with your performance. Are you fatigued? Having a hard time maintaining your pace and keeping up with your schedule? Feeling out of sorts?

Stress and Aging: Recognizing & Managing Your Senior’s Symptoms

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your fellow caregivers most likely have felt the same pressures and stress you may be experiencing. If you’re feeling stressed, your senior is likely to feel residual stress. Get some advice. Sometimes talking about how you are feeling to someone who understands is half the battle.

  • Take a break once in a while during the day.  
  • Get fresh air by taking a walk between client visits.
  • Practice mindful meditation anywhere you can find a quiet 10 minutes (even in the car).
  • Listen to comedy podcasts while traveling for a new perspective. Laughing has excellent healing powers.

Remember, you are not alone! The work of a caregiver is invaluable to so many. Providing quality care with love, empathy, patience, and compassion, is not only a skill but a precious commodity, and we are glad you are out there! We hope these tips for caregivers help keep you healthy, timely and organized!

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