My husband is disabled and requires more assistance than some care receivers. More assistance means more requests. I’ve been his caregiver for two years and, as the months passed, realized I was being interrupted constantly. When I was doing laundry, or preparing food, or writing at the computer, he would call me. I stopped what I was doing and helped him.
All of his requests were justified. Still, I had to learn how to work with snippets of time. Since my husband couldn’t change his health care needs, I had to change and adapt. Although my solutions were simple, they have been helpful. Here are my tips for working with snippets of time.
Have a routine. A daily routine provides structure for you and your loved one. Keep in mind that you can modify your routine if it isn’t working. My husband’s daily routine begins with stretching exercises for his legs, a necessary task for health and wellness.
Plan together. Your loved one may have many time-saving ideas. Asking for input helps your loved one retain some control over a life that may seem out of control. Because my husband is a retired physician I always seek his input. We plan the day together.
Keep your promises. When my husband calls, I try to finish what I’m doing, something that isn’t always possible. I tell him, “I’ll be there in ____ minutes.” Sometimes it is two minutes, sometimes five, sometimes more. What’s important is that my husband knows I will keep my promise.
Make menus. I don’t have time to plan weekly menus, so I plan meals for three days. In fact, I’ve learned to speed shop for groceries. Often I start a recipe one day and finish it the next. For example, I cook pasta ahead of time, drizzle it with olive oil to prevent clumping, and refrigerate until needed.
Build “Me Time” into the day. I set aside a half hour for reading, or watching birds come to the backyard feeders, or emailing family members. These brief breaks re-charge me for hours. Without “Me Time” I would be a grumpy caregiver. My husband understands my need for this time and is respectful of it.
Practice Self-Care. When he was discharged from rehab, my husband was advised to join a health club and exercise on a special bike to strengthen his legs. I drive him there in our wheelchair van. While he is using the bike, I walk a mile on a treadmill behind him. In addition to being physically active, I get regular medical and dental check-ups.
Constant requests come with the caregiving territory. Frustrating as these requests may be, we can’t allow them to make us angry or impatient. We can learn to accomplish our tasks in snippets of time, try different methods, and work more efficiently. All of these things are possible. And remember, life itself is only a snippet of time.