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How much time you'll need to spend on your caregiving endeavors will depend on several factors including how much help your elder needs, where your elder is living—in his own home, in your home, in a retirement community, or in a senior care facility—and how much of the care you'll provide personally. On average, a caregiver devotes 18 hours a week toward assisting the elder. Our goal here is to show you some practical ways to work this new time commitment into your schedule, as well as some creative ways to handle your added tasks more efficiently.

To do list

  • Assess what help your elder needs

  • Determine tasks and frequencies

  • Schedule tasks in your planner


Determining Eldercare Needs

The fundamentals of scheduling remain the same in an eldercare situation as they are for any other aspect of your life. You'll want to take some time to assess the extent of the eldercare that's needed, creating to do lists, assigning frequencies and time frames to tasks, and then scheduling the items into your family's planner.

  • If your situation involves a parent or relative who is still living in her own home, you may find that you have a list for running her household that is almost parallel to the one for your own household.

  • If your elder is living in your home, you won't have many additional household tasks at all. You'll want to treat the elder's needs the same way you treat everyone else's in the family. You should schedule time for personal care, enrichment activities, hobbies, socializing, and free time. If the elder can't be left alone in the house, you'll have to make arrangements for the times you'll be away the same as you would for a young child.

    tip

    As your elder's sight, hearing, mental acuity, or mobility diminishes, safety becomes an increasing concern. If you're responsible for your elder's living environment, make sure you have replacing smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries scheduled as a task in your planner every six months. If your elder doesn't have these detectors, make sure you install them right away.


  • If your elder lives in a retirement community, an assisted-living facility, or a nursing home, you'll want to make your to do list with a clear understanding of what your care responsibilities are.

Adjusting Your Family's Schedule to Accommodate Eldercare

Just as any new undertaking—having a baby, starting school, moving to a new home—requires a reevaluation and adjustment in your schedule, so will the addition of eldercare responsibilities. You may find that you need to reallocate the chore load among your family members. If so, look for ways to make the new tasks seem as minimal as you can. For example, you may find that some members of your family would be happy to trade in some household chores in exchange for helping more with the elder's personal care, whereas other family members would rather do the housework. Allocating the tasks according to these natural preferences will keep your family's collective stress lower. You may also find that you need to do some explaining—or negotiation—with your elderly relative. For example, she may have always scrubbed the kitchen on Monday, but if someone in your family has time to do it only on Saturday, then she'll have to cope with the change.


tip

Grandparents love to spend time with their grandchildren, and older people really enjoy music—especially if their hearing is still good. If you have a child who is taking music lessons, you can have him practice with his grandparent as an audience. He'll accomplish three things at once: visiting with his grandparent and practicing his instrument; plus, because he'll be keeping your elder company, you'll be free to do other things during that time.


If you're helping your aging relative deal with major life changes such as selling a home and downsizing or moving to a retirement facility, then you may need to suspend some of your regularly scheduled activities for a while. You may also need to ask your employer to make some workplace accommodations for you, such as changing your work hours or adjusting your workload. If you take the time to create a preliminary schedule of what you need to do for your elder, then you'll have a realistic idea of what adjustments will work.

tip

Many businesses—grocery stores, pharmacies, dry cleaners—provide delivery services if you ask. Using services that deliver to your elder's home has the added benefit of having people who check on the well-being of your elder in the normal course of their work.


CONSOLIDATING TASKS YOU HAVE IN COMMON

To be more efficient—which not only will save you time but also reduce your stress—look for ways to consolidate some of the tasks that you need to do for both yourself and your elder. Here are some examples:


  • Banking. If you're handling your elder's banking—or even just helping him with it—consider switching his—or your—accounts so they are all at the same bank and you can take care of all of the banking with one trip. You may also want to sign up for online banking if it suits your style and helps your schedule. You'll still want to have both of your accounts at the same bank so you'll have to deal with only one system.

  • Bill paying. Ask companies—credit card, utility, insurance, and so on—to adjust the monthly payment dates on your and your elder's accounts to fit your schedule. Also, consider opting for online or automatic bill-paying options if they'll save you time.

  • Grocery shopping. Shop at the same store as your elder so both of you can do your shopping on the same trip. If you'll need to unload groceries at your elder's house before taking your groceries home, keep an insulated container, such as a cooler, in your car to keep your highly perishable items cold.

  • Personal grooming. Use the same hairdresser or barber as your elder and schedule your appointments at the same time.

  • Preparing meals. When you're cooking for your family, prepare and freeze an extra portion for your elder.


Things You'll Need 
  • The names and phone numbers of your elder's doctors

  • A complete list of your elder's medications

  • Your elder's medical insurance information

  • Your elder's local phone book

  • Extra keys to your elder's residence

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