As a caregiver, whether it is for a loved one residing in your home or in an assisted living community, you may find yourself spending more time in emergency rooms, at out-patient testing facilities or in one of a myriad of physician’s office waiting areas. This can be very frustrating when your to-do list is a mile long and it seems as though you are trapped within four walls and unable to get anything accomplished.
But with a little advance preparation, there are a few things that you might be able to accomplish while waiting for your care recipient’s name to be called. An additional bonus is that many of these items are little chores that are often put on the back burner and can now be crossed off your master to-do list.
1. Delete Photos From Your Digital Camera
Browse through all the photos on your digital camera and delete the ones that you aren’t going to print or add to your computer Photoshop. If you have already uploaded them, then delete all of them.
2. Write Note Cards, Birthday Cards Or Thank-You Notes
I always keep a few note cards and thank-you note cards in my organizer so that when I have a few moments, I can hand write a quick greeting. People love receiving them and handwritten notes have almost become a lost art.
3. Catch Up On Your To-Do Lists
This is a good time to go through your organizer and…organize. Cross off the things on your to-do list that you have accomplished, add new ones and check to see that you’ve not forgotten anything. Go through the address portion of your organizer to make sure that you’ve deleted any old addresses.
If you have an organizer for your care recipient, update that one as well. Are the medication lists current? Do you need to document any recent behavior changes (in the case of dementia)? These are all things that take time and can be done while waiting.
4. Bring A Magazine From Home
The magazines that you find in waiting rooms are never the ones that you truly want to read and you know that you have unviewed issues of your favorite magazines at home (because there is never time to read them). Why not bring one or two with you? It will almost seem like an accomplishment to get through one.
5. Clip Coupons
Bring along the Sunday or Wednesday coupon inserts from your newspaper and clip the coupons that you can use on your next shopping trip. An added bonus is that dementia patients, especially those with Alzheimer’s, love to clip coupons. If you bring along a pair of dull scissors, you can offer the insert to your care recipient after you’ve chosen the ones you will use yourself.
6. Bring A Paperback Book Or An E-Reader Such As A Kindle
A small paperback book or an e-reader will fit easily into most women’s purses and most men’s briefcases. Bring something that is “easy reading” so that it won’t require uninterrupted concentration. Paperback Sodoku or crossword puzzle books are also good choices. They are easy to come back to and also stimulate the brain.
7. Check Your Email
If you have an iPhone or other email-accessible hand-held device, read through your email and delete the items you won’t need. It’s a fairly mindless activity and one more item that you can check off your to-do list.
8. Clean Out Your Purse Or Briefcase
You may want to bring a small trash bag with you for this activity. Get rid of the broken sticks of gum, unnecessary receipts, and expired coupons and old copies of email. It’s something that never seems to get done at home, but is always something most people are “meaning to do.” Folks may look at you a little strangely, but who cares? You will have a cleaner carry-all at the finish!
9. Play Hand-Held Games
This is a fairly obvious one and you probably already play the games that came with your cell phone. You might consider investing in a Play Station PSP or a Nintendo DS system as well. Many boomers are doing just that. Again, an added bonus is that your care recipient might be able to play too. For patients with dementia, there are some great applications for the various smart phones.
10. Recipe Cards
Do you recall all those recipes that you have ripped out of magazines or scribbled on sheets of paper, always meaning to transcribe them to a REAL recipe card someday? Well, now’s your chance to do that. Always carry a few recipe cards in your organizer and grab some of the recipes that you want to transcribe. You’ll be able to put them in your recipe box and have less searching to do when you want to prepare that item again.
If you are one of those talented individuals who can knit, crochet, cross stitch, sew, etc., by all means, bring your work with you to the office visits. Remember, a stitch in time saves nine.
Journaling can help to relieve stress and help to find answers to your caregiving questions by causing reflection. Journaling does not take a long time and can easily be done while waiting for a medical appointment.
Because you probably don’t know anyone sitting along with you in the waiting area, it is not rude to shut your eyes and connect to the wisdom within you. Start by taking three long breaths and concentrate on your breathing. You will be calmer and still alert enough to hear your name when it is called.
14. Listen To A Podcast
I normally don’t suggest using a cell phone or listening to music on your iPod (in fact, many offices frown on that sort of thing) but I think that listening to a podcast (with ear phones) keeps you alert enough to hear your name called and seldom will you find yourself singing along to a podcast. You could learn a new language, learn more about your care recipient’s condition or even listen to last week’s church sermon.
15. Write Lists
I have a book called List Yourself (as the way to self-discovery) by Ilene Segalove and Paul Bob Velick. Much like journaling, this book helps to explore your inner thoughts on such things as the components of your perfect day, all the magazines you subscribe to, your favorite food ingredients, etc. For people who love lists, this is a great book!
Keep in mind that with a little preparation, you should never go stir crazy while waiting for an appointment again.
This is a guest post from Shelley Webb, RN, founder of The Intentional Caregiver website. Shelley has written numerous articles and has most recently spoken at New Frontiers in Dementia Care, a centennial celebration symposium sponsored by Hebrew Home of Greater Washington (DC). Follow Shelley at Twitter.com/ShelleyWebbRN or Facebook.com/TheEldercareSupportGroup.
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