The workload of a carer can seem overwhelming. There are so many small tasks to be completed that some of them are likely to be deferred (if not neglected). This is a common dilemma for carers, though, and they shouldn’t be self-critical for putting off certain tasks as they only have a finite amount of time with which to work. It helps to take a step back, decide which tasks are the highest priority and deal with those one by one. At least by calmly getting through tasks, they will feel that progress is being made and that should help to keep any stress in check. These tips can help in the management of caregiving tasks:
- Prioritise your schedule: Before each care shift, write down every task you wish to complete and then assign a priority ranking to each of them. This will help you to determine which tasks are most important so that you can ensure to get these done during your shift.
- One step at a time: It’s understandable that you might have an eye on the bigger picture with your patient, but as their condition can change rapidly and unexpectedly, it’s best to focus solely on the next care shift. Doing so will make you feel less overwhelmed and better able to give your patient the care he/she needs here and now.
- Keep all information handy: Keep any important information about your patient in the same place and have it ready to call upon instantly. This includes their contact details, the number of their doctor, their medication and a list of appointments. Having all this to hand will put your mind at ease.
- Go ‘off the grid’ during caregiving: You’ll want to give your full attention to the patient while caring for them, so don’t feel obligated to take calls or respond to messages. You can get back to these in due course. If turning off your phone or putting it in flight mode helps, it’s OK to do this.
- Negotiate with your workplace: If you have a good rapport with your employer and you think they would be open to the idea, ask them if you can work flexible hours so that your caring duties and full-time job are kept in harmonious balance.
- Set up a messaging group: It’s easier than ever to keep all family members abreast of the patient’s condition with messaging platforms such as Jointly (see above), WhatsApp and Messenger. These allow you to update all concerned parties quickly and easily, instead of having to spend time on multiple phone calls.
- Designate and delegate: If you share caregiving duties for a patient with other carers, go for a ‘divide and conquer’ approach by distributing the workload evenly or by designating tasks to the carer who has the greatest aptitude or enthusiasm for each one.
- Have a support network: There’s no way you can do it all on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family to help with duties such as cooking, driving and cleaning for you. They will happily try to lighten your load in whatever way they can so that your downtime is as relaxing as can be.
- Self-indulge: Reward yourself at the end of each care shift. You’ll probably just want to go to sleep for a few hours, but this counts as a reward for your unselfish work. During your downtime, treat yourself to whatever makes you happy, whether it’s a warm bath, your favourite meal or a cosy night in watching a film you enjoy.
Carers who enjoy their spare time and detach from caring will be relaxed and refreshed when their next caring shift begins, while patients would prefer to see their carer feeling relaxed than drained or pressurised. Therefore, it’s mutually beneficial for carers to adequately unwind between care shifts and these are some of the ways in which they can practise proper self-care.
- Gentle exercise: Even simple exercises such as yoga or a short walk can help carers to feel refreshed after a shift. Some carers might enjoy exercising and wish to do something more vigorous than short walks or stretching, but exercise should be relatively easy-going so that it doesn’t drain the carer too much.
- Adequate sleep: It’s essential that carers get a proper, uninterrupted sleep in between shifts so that they’re not fatigued when their services are called upon. Caffeinated drinks should be avoided before going to sleep, as should any activity which involves looking at a screen. It’s best for carers to employ any techniques (e.g. relaxing music, a warm bath) which help them to relax before their intended sleeping hours.
- Healthy eating: It’s no coincidence that carers who maintain a nutritious, well-balanced diet will be far better revitalised for their duties than those who constantly wing it on fast food. Although some carers might not wish to cook a full dinner after their shift, it’s important to eat even a small, wholesome meal. Also, skipping meals entirely is strongly discouraged.
- Meet up with friends: Try to find the time to socialise with friends and doing something you enjoy, whether it’s having them around for some leisurely drinks or going for a night out to the cinema. Activities such as these will help you to unwind and allow you to talk to friends about your caring experience, which is especially helpful if you’re finding it stressful.