Caregiver Perspective: Can You Come Here a Minute?

“Can you come here a minute?” I hear that every 30-60 minutes all day long and you know what?  It’s never a minute. When I enter his room to find out what he needs, I’m typically gone for 15-30 minutes.

Being the chief cook, laundress, banker, shopper, mechanic, fixer-upper, and caregiver; as well as spouse, Mom, grandma, and employee, my days are filled to overflowing. The only time I sit down is to eat and when I do, I’m usually composing a shopping list, taking care of bills, or completing assignments for work OR I’m feeding Lynn as I take a few bites as well. Most of my days are 19 straight hours of go, go, go; so in order to manage my life I have to be relatively organized.


“Organized?” you say as you look around my house. Well, my world might not look organized to you but trust me, it is. I have a hybrid concept of “everything in its place.” Its “place” is somewhere in a particular room, not a specific drawer, (well, sometimes a specific drawer if I use it fairly often) and is usually found somewhere to the “left as you enter the room.” For example, all medical equipment is in the spare bedroom, as is, the urinary catheter supplies. The equipment is located wherever you can get it to fit. The monthly catheter supplies are all on a shelf in that room and the daily supplies are in a plastic shelving unit in the bedroom. One is out of the way and the other is within arm’s reach of where I need it most. Supplies are stored according to purpose, frequency of use and size. I have cheap plastic storage bins stacked around that can be moved to where I need them and which allow me to have “activities” grouped together. Care supplies are organized; nothing else in the room is.

Clothes, for example, are not a priority for me. I want them clean, comfortable, and durable. I usually wear scrubs and they usually look well worn. I throw them in the hamper or washing machine, wait till I’m pulling out Lynn’s last pair of shorts to wear, and then and only then, do I do laundry. When the clothes are clean and dry, I hang them in the utility room next to the dryer for convenience or dump them into a laundry basket where they will probably stay until I need to use them again. My style of being organized – frequently used clothing right where I can walk by and grab them as I need them.

I wish I could be as organized with my schedule….but I can’t.

The key to my survival is flexibility and the ability to break tasks into smaller components quickly so that I can multitask. I keep in mind what is coming up next at all times. If I need to go to the back room to assist Lynn in answering the call of nature, I grab supplies or clean laundry to take with me. I ask Lynn to always tell me everything he needs when I first enter a room so I can plan my “process” for that particular visit. For example, if he needs me to make tea, cath him, adjust his position, and give him nose spray, I would put the water on to heat, fix the tea while it’s cooking, cath him, then adjust him so the process of cathing him would not disrupt the positioning needed, finish the tea then give him nose spray after he drank some hot tea. In my mind, I figure out how long something will take, what can be done in the meantime and what will be the impact on any one request by the sum and influence of all other requests. Through that analysis, I come up with a “routine.” Once I repeat that routine a few hundred times, it’s an automatic response. My goal=save time and energy.

That process works UNTIL he changes his mind in the middle of a routine and messes up the entire schedule. How often does that happen? Almost every time. How do I handle the disruption? I would like to say with grace and acceptance but in reality it’s often with eyes rolling and lips muttering. My reaction to disruptions is definitely something I need to work on. (I’ll add that to my “to do” list.)

All the above leads me to one conclusion….I can try with all my might to be organized, stick to a schedule, and plan ahead but it will inevitably be to no avail. Live is unpredictable. Needs do not always occur on schedule. Interruptions are a regular part of life. So the key to survival in my book is…be flexible and don’t sweat the small stuff. It will be there waiting on you later anyway….

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