carer care time saving dementia Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire
Maud and Mum kitchen workshop ‘mission control’

My time-saving tips will free you up for other activities, including fun I hope.  Are you wondering how to organise elder care so you can fit everything in? You need a ‘mission control’…

You’re on top of things (just), but bringing another adult into your life needs a rethink and a rejig.  You’re going to be OK, but everyone will need to make adjustments.  It’s worth looking at the stuff that happens frequently and thinking about designing time-saving strategies for the future.

I know now that I was naive about what caring actually entailed and about how care changes over time.  For example, when Marj first moved in, even though she tired easily, she was able to walk around relatively easily with a stick or frame.  Physical support wasn’t an immediate priority in the early days of our cohabitation.

However, what I totally underestimated was the impact a new person in our household would have on ‘family admin’.  Meaning additional doctor, hairdresser, banking, optician, audiology, dentist, chiropodist and later, social services, domiciliary care companies and workers, occupational therapist, equipment delivery appointments etc, let alone new or different shopping and fun/social appointments.  I was running out of time.

First there’s the challenge that the time of day when Marj has the most energy, I will be at work.  The second challenge is that where I or the rest of the family might want to, say, have our haircut, may not be Marj’s preference.  Thirdly, there are physical access challenges to negotiate, as anyone trying to wrangle a heavy wheelchair knows (yes, even nowadays).

These four time-saving approaches have helped me absorb the majority of the additional family admin:-

i) Have help come to Marj. We mounted a simple combination-locked key safe by Marj’s front door so trusted visitors can enter without disturbing me at work or home. Now trips out together are for the serious or fun stuff. Note also that the number of visitors over time will only increase.

ii) Decide who I can delegate to, then do it.  For example, I’m happy to trim Marj’s fingernails but happier for a chiropodist to trim toenails. A mobile hairdresser and GP practise nurse also visit Marj every few weeks and use the key safe to enter. I found pre-screened hairdressers and chiropodists at Age UK, you can also ask for recommendations on local Facebook groups. If I forget to leave the cash out, I transfer payment to bank accounts. Supermarket home delivery is also a time-saving option.

iii) I bought a ‘Marj’ calendar (marked ‘1’ in the photo), with room for notes.  We keep it on Marj’s kitchen worktop.  That way all visitors can make their own appointment entries and everyone involved in Marj’s care can see what’s planned and when, including holidays or nights off/cover.  I know it’s a rudimentary method of communication in this age of tech, but it’s effective. Not all Marj’s carers have or know how to use a smartphone.

iv) I also have an open exercise book (marked ‘8’ in the photo), where any visitor can log their visit and what happened during their time with Marj. This has become Marj’s care ‘Log Book’.  This is even more useful now that Marj is less mobile and forgetful of recent events. We can all keep track of physical needs like hydration, meals and illness as well as social visits.

These four basics now form the backbone of our domestic care ‘organisation’.  Even as Marj’s needs have become more complex, the system works well 90% of the time.

What systems do you use? We’re all ears.


PS, in case you’re wondering about the other items in the photo:

  • 2 is a write on wipe off ‘Marj’s shopping list’,
  • 3 is the booklet of exercises Marj does at lunchtimes,
  • 4 is Marj’s ‘care plan‘,
  • 5a, 5b and 5c are the three different time recording formats required by the three separate private domiciliary care companies that help care for Marj,
  • 6 is a write on wipe off message board for short term messages,
  • 7 is a pad for me, to take notes away.