A working daughter asks, “Does caregiving make anyone else more and more forgetful or is it just me?”
Oh, honey! It’s not just you. It’s everything. It’s work deadlines and client appointments and staff meetings. It’s your parents’ doctors’ appointments and medications and groceries and errands. It’s your doctor’s appointments and medications and errands and friends’ birthdays. It’s your kids’ doctor’s appointments and orthodontist appointments and parent teacher conferences and homework and dance competitions and soccer tournaments. It’s your pets’ vet appointments and need for daily walks and litter box changes. It’s not just you!
So how do you stay organized as a caregiver? How do you keep track of work and care and life without forgetting to show up at important appointments or showing up on the wrong day or the wrong time? Here are 6 tips for staying organized as a caregiver.
- Use one calendar. Becoming a caregiver means accepting the fact that you cannot keep track of your life in your head anymore. I don’t care how well that approach worked for you before; it’s over. You must keep track of your appointments on a calendar – one calendar; not two or three. Keeping separate calendars for work and personal is a recipe for disaster (scheduling disaster that is.) Paper or electronic is your choice, but may I highly recommend electronic? With an electronic calendar you can share the calendar with your partner, your siblings (if they are involved in caring for your parents), your kids, etc. If you have not yet mastered the ability to be in two places at once (i.e. dropping off your daughter at hockey practice and taking your mother for blood work) then you need to share one calendar with your family.
- Protect your privacy. Using one calendar (did I mention you can only keep one calendar?), means most likely defaulting to your work calendar. Many of us are on Outlook or Google calendars for work. Be careful about what permissions you share with coworkers and what information you reveal on that work calendar. Review your permissions which tell you who can see your calendar and how much detail they can see. If you are required to share full details, you may want to mark personal appointments as private. For more on how to manage your Outlook calendar, visit Microsoft office support. If you are using Google, visit this page.
- Take notes. Commit nothing to memory when you are a caregiver. (I already told you that but you probably forgot because you didn’t write it down.) Keep a small notebook and pen in your purse at all times and never walk into a meeting without it – that goes for work meetings, medical appointments, you name it. Take notes and then recap them with your boss, the doctor, your spouse – whoever you are meeting with – before you leave the meeting. “Okay, so here’s what I heard,” should be your go-to phrase as you recap the change in meds, or the client deadlines, or who has carpool this week.
- Make lists. A working mother I interviewed for my book, Mogul, Mom & Maid, told me she was so busy her lists had lists. It’s no different for working daughters. Keep lists to keep track of your many different to-dos. Do not go to the grocery store without a list unless you plan to have Oreos and wine for dinner (again). Have a “Things I need at the pharmacy” list, a “Paperwork I need to send to the school” list, a “What I need to get done at work this week” list, an “Items I need to pick up for Dad’s assisted living apartment” list, etc., etc., etc. Keep these lists on your smartphone not on a piece of paper floating around in your purse. If you are this person: “But I like written lists because I love crossing things off,” I feel you. But too bad. Learn to find satisfaction in deleting the items you’ve completed, or making the list bold and then unbolding what you finish, or placing an asterisk next to items you’ve completed. Your lists must be portable and electronic.
- Use apps. There are many great apps for caregivers. I’ve written about some of them here. Make technology work for you. One of my favorites is Mobile Day. This app synchs with your calendar and automatically dials any conference calls on your schedule. And, it even dials the access code or pin number for you.
- Forgive yourself. You will forget something. You will put an appointment on the wrong day or time or forget to show up somewhere. Do not beat yourself up! Why are you going to reprimand yourself for the appointment you missed or the errand you failed to run? Why not instead celebrate what you did well? You are doing so much, working daughter. So much! So please, do not turn one mistake into an always or a never. If you hear your inner voice saying, “Why can I never get this right,” or “Why do I always forget…,” stop! That is just not true. Instead tell yourself, “Good job. Ninety percent perfection is pretty awesome. Onward!”