Taking care of vulnerable older adults is a rewarding job but it can also be very demanding. So you need to be as organized as possible on every level from getting their medication in order and structuring mealtimes, to simplifying their daily activities. Here are some tips regarding organization for caregivers to help you stay on top of things, give the best care you can, and avoid caregiver burnout.
Maximizing Medication Management
Arranging medications for older adults can be confusing and time-consuming. But one of the best things you can do is to put together a schedule for them as far in advance as possible, including changes like moving from glasses to contact lenses or changing the times they take their pills. Every senior situation is different, so it’s critical that each person has a plan that matches his or her needs.
Possible solutions include:
- A daily pillbox with compartments for each day of the week.
- An app on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or watch that can remind you to give them their medication at the right time every day.
- Scheduling a weekly meeting with a pharmacist if they are taking multiple medications.
Prepare For Emergencies
Caregiving can be stressful, and a good way to reduce anxiety is to prepare for unexpected emergencies. You should make sure the senior in your care has:
- An emergency contact phone number with two family members on speed dial
- A list of all medications, their doses, and dosages for any supplements they take
- A copy of past medical records for all doctors they see and hospitals they have been in
- An up-to-date list of allergies with remedies
- A plan for pet care during an emergency evacuation, which may be necessary if your senior is living alone, or you can’t get to their house due to bad weather.
- Most importantly, make sure you practice what you would do, so you are familiar with the procedure.
Connect With Your Trusted Circle on an App
One of the toughest parts of caregiving is making sure that everyone is in the loop. You’ve got your siblings wondering if mom has taken her medications. You’ve got an Uncle who keeps pestering you to see if the groceries have been picked up. You don’t have time to send everyone individual messages or respond to 4 different WhatsApp threads in order to be sure that everyone is in the know.
Using an app like WayWiser can help you streamline the communication process by allowing you to share calendar events – like doctor visits or birthday celebrations – as well as leave daily caregiving notes within the feed, allowing others to comment and share their own information if need be.
WayWiser’s caregiving tools are completely free, so it’s worth a download to try out.
Take Steps To Prevent Falls
One of the most common problems for seniors is falling, which can cause broken bones and injured joints, a loss of independence and fear that they will never be able to get around on their own again, and dependence on others or even a move to a nursing home. If your senior is living in the same place for a long period of time, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent falls.
- Exercise: If they live alone or far away from family members and friends, check with their doctor about starting a physical therapy program designed to reduce the risk of falling. Or if it’s appropriate, ask them to start a regular walking routine designed to strengthen leg muscles and improve balance.
- Make stairs safe: If they have stairs in their house, consider putting rubberized mats on the stairway or installing handrails on both sides of the staircase to give them something to hold onto.
- Remove obstacles: To help give your senior more confidence about going up and down stairs, make sure the lighting in their home is good. And be sure to keep all stairs clear of hazards such as clutter and electrical cords that can trip them up.
Establish Good Eating Habits
Seniors need to stay hydrated and enjoy good food habits. One of the easiest ways to be proactive is to encourage them not to eat in front of the TV.
If your senior loved one tends to eat unhealthy snacks, it’s best if their pantry contains healthy alternatives like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, and always plenty of water.
Keep in mind that some older folks may also avoid eating because they have a decreased appetite as they age, and it’s normal for people over 75 to eat less than the recommended amount of calories per day. Make sure your senior eats meals regularly throughout the day, even if they are small portions.
Manage your Time Wisely
Caregiving is a demanding and often full-time job. The time you have to care for an older adult is limited in comparison with their needs. This means you need to be as productive as possible during your time spent with them, hence the inclusion of time management in this list of organization for caregivers. One way to do this is by setting up a schedule, detailing when each task will take place, and sticking to it throughout the whole day.
Most of the time, caring for seniors is not a one-person job and you will often need to coordinate with other caregivers or family members. To avoid wasting precious time in either coordinating schedules or finding someone at home when you arrive, prepare a schedule, and send it via email to all concerned parties, so everyone knows what’s expected of them when to be there and what tasks are on the schedule for each day.
Be aware of your limitations and remember to be realistic. Being honest with yourself will help you avoid over-stressing yourself with more responsibilities than you can handle and stay positive during your caregiving hours. That way both you and the senior in your care will reap the maximum benefits from your services.
Conquering Caregiver Burnout
Being a primary caregiver is a demanding task and caregiver burnout is a serious problem. When you are caring for a senior 27/7 you are at a high risk of overextending yourself. The job can often seem overwhelming and can be a risk to your health, causing the following issues:
Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout that you should be aware of include:
- You have a hard time getting up in the morning to care for your senior because you feel overwhelmed from the previous day.
- You often feel like you are running on empty.
- You have a hard time motivating yourself to do anything because you are feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for your senior.
- You find yourself dissatisfied in almost all areas of your life, including work and relationships.
- You feel guilty about spending any time with yourself because you feel like it is selfish.
- You have a hard time paying attention to tasks or activities because your mind can’t focus due to the stress of your responsibilities.
- You start to feel like you are losing your independence because of all the responsibilities that caring for a senior places upon you.
When these feelings begin to build up, if they are not dealt with as soon as possible, they can lead to caregiver burnout. Once you begin to experience burnout, you will be unable to provide the best care for your senior, nor will you be able to take care of yourself properly.
How to Beat Caregiver Burnout Before It Takes Over Your Life
The most important thing to remember is that caregiver burnout can be avoided and many people have learned how to beat this issue before it takes over their lives. Here are ways you can avoid burnout:
Learn to say no: Don’t be afraid of cutting down your responsibilities if you feel you’re your senior is demanding too much from you. This is important because if you always say yes, it will lead to you taking on more than you can handle and eventually burning yourself out. Reach out to other caregivers or family members to help share the burden.
Find a support system: This will enable you to take some time off from your responsibilities and devote some time to yourself. With a support system, if you find that you are taking on more than you can handle, there will be someone there to help and care for your senior so you don’t have to do it all by yourself. A support system is also important so that you have someone you can talk to if you are feeling overwhelmed.
One support system you might consider is our caregivers group on Facebook, aptly called “Caregiving Is Tough“.
Learn to relax: Even though it is a difficult task, you need to learn how to relax and take time to care for yourself. When you are taking care of someone else every second of the day, it’s easy to forget that you have needs that must be taken care of too. Practicing breathing techniques or meditation can help you keep stress to a minimum.
If your feelings of caregiver burnout persist, talk to a medical professional about your options for getting help. You must be able to recognize when you need help and take some time off so that you can continue providing quality care for your senior.
Don’t be afraid of getting professional help. You need someone who will listen to your situation with an open mind and provide you with creative solutions on how to beat this issue. Remember that it is not a sign of weakness to seek help, especially when you are trying your best but still feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for someone else.
Why Be an Organized Caregiver?
Being a caregiver makes you a vital and valuable part of society. In this role, you are responsible not only for your own health but also for the health and safety of the senior you are taking care of. You may also face other responsibilities such as caring for your own family members or carrying on with another job. All of these factors highlight the need to be an organized caregiver.
Remember, being organized does not require special training, just practical thinking. You don’t have to get caught up in the hectic whirlwind that caregiving can become. Just follow these tips, stay focused, and avoid caregiver burnout. And if you do feel yourself getting overwhelmed, talk to a professional for advice.