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Time Savers for a Caregiver

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As a new caregiver a few years ago, I didn’t really have any idea how pressed for time I would be once Mom moved in. When you care for someone with dementia, just about anything you do with them takes longer than it does without them. Shopping, cooking, and running general errands are the big ones that come to mind with Mom. A simple run to the grocery store for milk and eggs can take an hour out of our day. Here’s how it could go down:

“Mom, I need to run to the grocery store real quick.”

“Ok. I’m coming with you.” (Of course you are.) “I just have to pee and brush my teeth.” (15 minutes later, we might be out the door. She also has to brush her hair and put on lipstick, as well. Then we have to find her purse and make sure her sun glasses are in it. If they aren’t, we have hunt for them.)

It’s about a five-minute drive to the store. Mom’s moves slowly, so there’s no running in. And there is no speeding to the milk/eggs department. I may make a bee line, but Mom has to, “look around.”

After I’ve made my bee line, milk and eggs in hand, now I have to look for her. For someone who moves as slowly as Mom does, how she can get so far away from where I last saw her is a mystery. I liken it to that physics theory known as the Observer Effect—that simply observing something changes it. When I observe Mom, she moves at a snail’s pace. But in the two minutes it takes me to get to the dairy case and back, thus no longer in my observation, she’s turned into Usain Bolt. Finding her can take 10 minutes.

Once I’ve tracked the little quantum particle down, now I have to get her to the register. If we are any where near the bakery section, that’s a good 10 minutes, inevitably with me saying no to a dozen doughnuts and her getting surly. If we are on the other side of the store from the bakery section, she steers there as if drawn by a siren call. The Queen Mary 2 changes course with less effort, so we make our way back via the chips and olive oils. Why? I don’t know. We just do.

Then it’s the same, “Pies are two for one!” “We don’t need one pie let alone two.”

You can see how a 15-minute errand is an hour we never get back.

For a long time, I just accepted this as our new normal. But I hadn’t discovered all the wonderful time-saving devices, services, and techniques that could make our lives easier, and richer in the long run. I’ve slowly learned ways that I can reduce the stress of never having enough hours in a day. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned along the way.

  • Amazon Prime—I admit, I was tardy to the Amazon Prime party. Most of the people close to me were already using it, and why I didn’t, I just don’t know. But I’m firmly on board now. I can get everything from refrigerator water filters to Christmas gifts, delivered for free, sometimes same day, with a few minutes at my computer. Trust me, the yearly membership fee pays for itself. (Full disclosure—I am an Amazon Affiliate, but I was a Prime member before that.)
  • Grocery Delivery Services—In my area, these include Instacart and Shipt. I knew about these, but had never used them until I was sick, and didn’t have the vim or vinegar to brave the store with Mom for cough drops. Where you live may depend on the services available, and there may be some delivery charges with less than minimum orders. But I find them worth it, and there’s zero chance I’ll cave to Mom’s impulse pies, either, so it saves money and stress in the long run.
  • Buy Online Pick Up In Store—I use this especially for my pet supplies. But I know Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and others offer this. It’s a growing trend, so chances are your local stores that you frequent have a program.
  • Instant Pot and Slow Cookers—I use my pressure cooker now more often than I use my slow cooker, but I’m hear to tell ya; anything that allows me to drop and go for a healthy meal is my best friend. And I even discovered that I can cook from frozen chicken in the IP; just have to add another minute to the cook time. If I forget to take something out to thaw this is life saver.
  • App banking—I hate going to the bank, anyway. Some sort of bank robbery phobia I have. Not only time saving, it cuts down on those, “Where’s my money?” “Why don’t I see bank statements anymore?” interrogations. Mom’s inability to manage her finances, or even know where her money was and wasn’t, was one of the first signs that something wasn’t right with her.
  • Make a plan—A few days before the end of each month, I start planning my shopping needs for the next. I lay out a weekly meal plan, inventory what I already have (including non-food items), and figure out what I need to buy. I scour the sales and coupons at the regular stores and compare them to Sam’s Club. Then I shop. I get the vast majority of what I’ll need for the month at once. It’s a bit of front-end work, but it pays out in the end.


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