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June 21, 2022
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Time Management Strategies for Busy Family Caregivers

Caregiving is both a joy and a challenge. It can make days feel endless, and at the same time, as though there aren’t enough hours in a day. Juggling a loved one’s care as well as work, family and/or personal needs can lead to chronic stress and burnout for those in a caregiving role. Time management is an essential skill for family caregivers, but this often requires conscious change and specific strategies. If you are caring for a loved one, here are some tips to help you organize and prioritize your time to help you find a balance between your many demands:

Plan ahead. A great exercise for caregivers is to sit down at the start of each week and take a look at what’s to come. Identify conflicting appointments or activities that may need to be rescheduled, look up addresses and phone numbers for new appointments and consider where extra hands may be helpful. Making this simple step a part of your routine will help Monday morning feel a little less overwhelming.

List and prioritize. To-do lists can help caregivers stay productive and organized, but lengthy lists can actually be counterproductive. Start by identifying the tasks that are time-sensitive and urgent and eliminating tasks that aren’t necessary or can be done at a later date. Some people like to complete the job they dread the most first, while others prefer to check a few simple things off the list initially to gain momentum. Try to group similar tasks together so you can make phone calls all in one sitting or run multiple errands at the same time. There are lots of strategies to help you prioritize what needs to be done, so experiment and stay flexible.

Touch it once. When demands are coming at you from all directions, it can be easy to push small tasks aside promising to get to them later. A helpful time management skill is to follow the ‘touch it once’ rule. The general idea is that as soon as you touch something, a bill to pay or a document that needs to be filed, you immediately act on it. This could be completing the task right then or there, or taking the next step to move it along. While this isn’t always possible, the extra effort will save you time overall, declutter your mental space and eliminate simple tasks from your list of to-dos.

Get help. It can be difficult for caregivers to reach out for support even though it’s likely that your friends and family want to help. If you aren’t getting offers, ask directly and be specific about what you need. Picking up a grocery order, filling prescriptions, taking care of yard work or offering a ride to an appointment are all easy ways for the people in your life to lighten your load. If possible, consider paying for cleaning services, property maintenance, dog walking or a community day program for your loved one to give you a much-needed break.

Forget about perfection. Caregivers often get stuck trying to do things perfectly instead of effectively. Set time limits for everyday tasks like housework, meal prep and laundry so you can do your best and then move on. Be okay with saying ‘no’ to new requests, know your limits and let go of the need to please everyone in your life.

Prioritize you. Although it may sound counterintuitive, taking regular breaks is one of the best ways to be productive. It can be so hard to prioritize self-care but actually scheduling your own activities and break times will make you more likely to follow through. Do more of what you enjoy—writing, exercise, reading, coffee with friends—and take time to eat nourishing meals, drink water and get rest throughout the day. These steps will help you reduce stress and prevent burnout to give you the energy you need to care for others.

Regardless of how well you manage your time, all caregivers need a break. VHA Home HealthCare can help with nursing services like medication administration and tube feed preparation and personal support teams can provide grooming and dressing, meal preparation, light housekeeping, companionship and other services.

To learn more about this support, contact VHA Home HealthCare’s private services team. Call (416) 489-2500 ext. 4649 or contact them by email at privateservices@vha.ca for more information.