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"Unschedule" Your Time to be a Better Caregiver

By Margery Pabst Steinmetz

“I am cutting back my schedule.”  Anyone ever heard a friend say these words?  Ever heard yourself say them?  As a caregiver, you’re probably thinking, “I don’t have the option to do that.  My day is always busy caring for one or many people.”   Actually, you do have options for controlling your schedule and paring it down to reasonable amounts of work.  I know you’ve heard this suggestion before with a bromide like, “Just make time for yourself.”  So let’s look at specific tips that can truly assist in clearing some time for yourself, cutting back on wasted time or unnecessary tasks.   Here are my tips and what I do that works:   ANTICIPATE WAYS TO DOWNSIZE YOUR TIME   -On Sunday, I review the week ahead.  I ask, “Is everything on the schedule necessary?”  For example, after the necessary doctor’s and therapist’s appointments, do we need to see family members on several afternoons and evenings?  Could I consolidate more family events into fewer engagements, quality vs. quantity if you will?  Use the quality vs quantity check on everything on your schedule.   BE PROACTIVE WITH YOUR TIME   -This tip also relates to anticipating what may happen.  For example, certain social events happen every week, particularly with family or perhaps church and synagogue.    Can you pare back the number of events/time but continue to have social engagement for you and your care partner?  I like to operate on a less is more basis!  I always try to be proactive by suggesting the day/time that is best for me and my care partner rather than waiting for someone to call and ask about a date that works for them.  This situation just happened a few minutes ago while I was writing this blog. I knew this friend wanted to visit in March, so I proactively offered two dates that work for me. Voila!!! It worked in with my schedule.   CONSOLIDATE TASK   -Shopping at grocery and drug stores are typical tasks every week.  Why not try to buy most items at one store if possible?  Before caregiving, I was known to shop multiple stores for just the right ingredients in one recipe!!!!  I started asking myself, is just the right farm to table basil necessary for the lasagne?     Another way to consolidate is to group tasks so they are completed all at one time.  Bills are a perfect example. Collect them for a few days and then pay them all at once. What other tasks can you group and then do them all at once?   Taking these prescriptive actions in defense of my time (and my care partner’s) and schedule provides more pleasant time for us to relax and do what we choose more often than not.  As you practice these tips (Anticipate, Be Proactive and Consolidate), I think you will find you get better using them.  Here’s to “unscheduling”!!!   Margery Pabst Steinmetz is eCareDiary’s caregiving expert.  She hosts the radio show, “Caregivers Speak.”  She is an author of “Enrich Your Caregiving Journey” and “Words of Care.”  She founded a Caregiving resource website,

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Expert Q&A

Motivating a Reluctant Senior

Empowered Aging Expert,
Sharkie Zartman

Question: My aging mother just got out of the hospital. She seems listless and anxious. I am trying to help my aging mother get out and do stuff to cheer herself up. But she always turns down my suggestions. Can you suggest ways to inspire her to not have a "give up" attitude?

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