It’s Easy October here at Sandwiched KC and this month we’ll be exploring ways to make life easier as you care for a loved one.

As always, remember every situation is different. Our primary goal in simply to offer you ideas and starting points for thinking about ways to make your life easier. You have the power 💪💪💪💪

10. Make sure that paperwork is perfect.

If you’ve talked to me recently, I’m confident I told you this is one of the top things I’ve learned since caring for my grandmother. Certainly, making sure everyone’s affairs are in order is stressful in the here and now, but it will give you immeasurable peace of mind in the future. It is worth the awkward and difficult conversations to know that everything is in place. Consider consulting an estate planning attorney to review your loved one’s final wishes (as well as your own, to be honest ✋). THis includes reviewing or creating a will, Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and other legal documents that make transferring assets easier when a loved one passes or life changes. I found 12 Conversations: How To Talk to Almost Anyone About Long-Term Care Planning by legal expert and attorney, Cathy Sikorski, especially helpful (and humorous 😉) 

9. Use a calendar.

It seems like a no-brainer, but when you can look at how your (and/or your loved one’s) time is being spent, it makes it easier to find ways to save time and plan ahead for things like family events, social activities, and taking a break. Back in my caregiving days, I created a Google calendar for myself and one for my grandma. When I added caregiver hours and social activities to her calendar and laid it over mine, it was much easier to see where the gaps in coverage were. 

8. Auto refill

Even despite prior caregiving experience, the calamity surrounding the onset of my caregiving responsibilities made life so stressful I couldn’t recall things I knew dang well about medication administration and management. It took a while, but after making a million different trips to the pharmacy over the course of the month, getting all of the medications on auto-refill and refilling at the same time, made my life so much easier. 

7. Auto or online bill pay 

When I began taking care of my grandma, she was either writing checks and mailing them or paying them all in person. Since she needed my help with that, it made sense for us to use online bill pay. In the beginning, we sat down once a month and used auto bill pay, so she could participate. Later on, as she lost the ability to keep track of what was going on in that department, I set them up to come out of her account automatically (yes, I said HER account, but we’ll talk about that another time)… and BAM! I recovered an hour of time each month in which we could do something more valuable, or at least more fun. 

6. Make a menu/plan meals ahead of time

When you become responsible for an older loved one or a person with a disability, nutrition is a major concern. It’s not easy to put meals together if you are having trouble getting around, remembering how to do things, or just don’t feel awesome.  The burden of ensuring our loved ones are receiving adequate meals often falls on us caregivers. I hope you’re not boffing at me when I tell you that making a menu in advance (however far out that looks like for you) will make your life so much easier. Figuring out what to eat often takes entirely too much time, even if you enjoy cooking or meal planning. 

5. Grocery pickup 

You know what else is a huge time sucker? GROCERY SHOPPING. My mom (rest her soul), asked me for about five years straight why I didn’t get the groceries delivered or use grocery pickup. In my pre-covid caregiving life, my grandma was able to be on her own for short periods of time. Our routine meant Grandma resting after church while I went to the grocery store. Since I had a meal plan, which meant I had a list, I was able to maneuver through that store like Speedy Gonzales… and I also got a break from her and time to decompress after taking her to church, which was often very stressful for me. HOWEVER, once we were confined to our new home here after Covid began, I realized all the hours of my life I wasted and can never get back because I spent so much time going to the store. So, people… if your time is limited, and if you’re caring for a loved one, I know just how precious it is…. quit wasting your time grocery shopping. 

4. Meal delivery (I’m not talking about DoorDash… although there’s nothing wrong with that)

What I’m talking about is nutritious, balanced meals that arrive pre-prepared. In most cases, they are fresh or just need to be reheated. This is especially helpful if your loved one is able to be on their own and get around their home safely. Personally, I let our pride get in the way of setting up meal delivery for my grandma, but as a person who’s delivered meals through community programs, I can tell you that they are wonderful services and truly SAVE LIVES. 

For ideas on how to make this happened or your situation, check out our post Home Delivered Meals for Older Adults in Kansas City (PS – there’s a GIVEAWAY there you may want to check out 😉)

There’s nothing wrong with using DoorDash or Postmates or Grubhub, in fact, I highly recommend it. Why not add it to your life routine/calendar once a week and give yourself (or a caregiver who’s maybe not so adept) a break from cooking? We had Panera delivered every Sunday evening for the longest. 

3. Look for opportunities your loved one can do on their own, away from you.

Maybe it sounds like a hassle… yes, it’s true, it’s a Work Now, Play Later type of deal…. but the more you can get your loved one involved in things they like to do away from you, the more chances you will have to take a break. If you haven’t been spending much time with your loved one prior to becoming their caregiver (hey, it happens to the best of us 🤷‍♀️)…. It may require you to find out what they’ve been up to. After I started caring for my grandma, I figure out she was going to a weekly Bible study on Friday nights (WHAAAAAAAT?!?) and a monthly dinner for the older adults at her church. It turns out, there were lots of people who liked her well enough at those things to come by and pick her up, even when she needed a substantial amount of help getting around. 

If push comes to shove and you STILL have to take your loved one, consider it a blessing – you still don’t have to cook 🙌🙌🙌

2. Take breaks as often as you can.

Don’t be rolling your eyes at me. Take it from someone who’s been there. The more you put off taking breaks during caregiving, the more you will suffer later on. I refused to take breaks unless I was sick. I missed out on so much. Just because you are not caregiving, doesn’t mean you’re taking a break, either. I’m talking about intentional times where you do something awesome for yourself. 

My friend and AARP Family Caregiving Expert, Amy Goyer, completely changed my perspective when she shared the analogy of a car. Amy says, “We don’t let our cars run on empty, so why do we do it to ourselves????”

Amy says there are four types of self-care we should engage in to keep our caregiving motors running. 

  • Quick Tank Fillers: Call a friend, hug, moments of joy, walk around the block, sing, dance, stop for coffee/tea, dote on your animals, connect with peers, text or Facebook, do nothing at all 
  • Premium Fill-Ups: Classes, golf or hike, TV or movie, dinner out, read, massage, manicure, time with family/friends 
  • Tune Ups: Longer breaks, vacations, conferences, retreats, meaningful places, spa 

All the while, we still have to think about ROUTINE MAINTENANCE, right? This includes sleep, healthy food, exercise, preventive health check-ups, counseling or life coaching, meditation, and a daily dose of joy

Last but not least……… drum roll please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1. Accept that you can do anything but you can’t do everything.

Yes, you are a super human, but you are NOT SUPERHUMAN. 

This is another jewel of wisdom from my friend, Amy Goyer.  She says it more poignantly than I do, but seriously folks, my life changed when I accepted the fact that nobody ever said I had to do everything myself. 

As a person who was caring for my grandma mostly alone, I had to embrace outsourcing. Yard work, handy work, meals, medicine, caregiving (obviously, for half that time I was employed full time and the other half I was self-employed)…. Heck, we even had a cleaning lady.

In most cases, chances are, there is someone else who can easily do whatever task is on your list (even if they don’t do it as well as you would… and that’s another thing that you’ll just have to learn to let go of, but that’s probably for another time). 

We hope that as much as possible (and you see fit), you can find ways to outsource the things you find yourself getting stuck with. It will make your life so. much. easier.

We hope you found this post helpful and also maybe even hysterical… after all, you have to laugh or you just might cry 🤣🤣🤣🤣

In all seriousness, though. We’d love to hear from you. What are some ways you’ve found that make life while caregiving easier? Feel free to drop us a note or leave a comment below 🥪