Smoothly With A Command Center
Caregiving requires organization. Few caregivers have only one obligation – caring for a loved one – so juggling all of the tasks and managing your own life requires some serious organization. If you aren’t organized, you’ll become frustrated, stressed out and possibly drop a few balls here and there.
Of course, many caregivers are thrust into their role without much planning and it can be hard to create an organization system that will work for your family on the fly. If you were thrust into caregiving and are trying to figure out some sort of organization system, I highly recommend creating a Caregiver Command Center. It’s much less complicated that it sounds. Essentially, it is a space in your home where you house your caregiving life.
In my home, I have two small “Command Centers” since I don’t have any one large area to keep our life on track. One area is dedicated to knowing where everyone needs to be and the other is dedicated to housing whatever we need to get out the door. For example, my youngest son had picture day at school and my husband needed to take the order form. It placed it on the shelf near the door, under his wallet and keys so he wouldn’t forget it. Having drop zones as part of your Command Center will ensure that you don’t forget something important as you rush out the door.
Creating A Caregiver Command Center
Every home and family functions differently so you’ll need to decide on what will work best for your family. That being said, there are essentials that everyone needs to remain organized. Here are some elements to include in your Caregiver Command Center.
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Central Location or Command Center Zones: The best way to stay on top of your caregiving tasks is to have a specific home for all things caregiving. In my case, since I’m in a very small home, I have two “zones” where we keep important information/things. I use the outside of our kitchen pantry door as our information center. I keep a calendar, cork board and dry erase board there and keep any important paperwork that is needed for appointments on the board until after the appointment. I also have a zone near the door where we keep our keys. It has hooks for bags and backpacks and a small shelf to keep paperwork that we need to take with us. If you have a larger area, you can store your caregiving medical file and any related paperwork for your caree (applications, vendor contracts, etc.).
Keep A Visible Master Calendar: I keep an electronic calendar on my phone, but I also use a wall calendar decal so that everyone can see what we have going on. I also use different colors for different activities since I want to make sure we don’t miss them. I love using a dry erase calendar since appointments/activities get canceled and I don’t want a calendar full of scribbles. I also have a calendar on my phone so that I can make appointments on the go. It is much easier to schedule a medical appointment while you’re at the office, versus waiting until you get home to call.
File/Paperwork System: Every time I go to the doctor, I get a post-visit summary and occasionally, a referral to another doctor. I keep referrals pinned to my corkboard until I make the appointment and I have a file for medical paperwork. That way, I don’t have to spend a ton of time searching for what I need. If your caree has a medical condition, I highly recommend creating a medical file where you keep all of their paperwork. If your command center is big enough, you can keep the file there, or do what I do and only keep paperwork that requires an action in the command center and file everything else in a specific location.
Contact List: I had a client who had a list of every phone number she could possibly need taped to the wall next to her phone. It was a fantastic idea as she had dementia and had many caregivers in the home who might need to contact someone on the list. In addition to a family contact list, you should have a service provider list (think plumber, electrician, cable provider, etc.) and a medical contact list. Keeping everything on one list makes things easier when you’re in a hurry.
Medications/Supplies: If you live with your caree and are tasked with their medication, it may be helpful to create a medication space in your command center. If you don’t have space, then make a small medication zone where you do have space (preferably not in the bathroom as some medications lose effectiveness in humid spaces). I have a section of my kitchen counter dedicated to my vitamins (I take a lot) and a pretty tray on my dresser to house my prescription medication. Everything is stored in those spaces so I know exactly where they are. If your caree has special instructions for certain medications or a specific schedule to keep to, print it out and keep it in that zone.
You may have other elements to your caregiving that you will want to add to your command center. The thing about organization is that it has to work for you, so it may take a few tweaks to make your command center work for you. I have changed my systems over time as my needs change. The key is to create a workable system for your caregiving situation.