By Jessica Kraft
As a caregiver, you're in the position of being in charge of another person's health, well-being and time. This often entails management of everything from medical documents and appointments to social engagements, mealtimes and shopping trips. You are the steward of your parent's paper trail, the sherpa of their schedule. Taken in the aggregate, the amount of decision-making, scheduling and daily tasks can seem daunting, even when you have a supportive network of family and helpers to provide assistance.
Luckily, being an effective caregiver does not require you to bend time and space to keep your lives and myriad appointments in order. The following tools can help you organize, plan and coordinate care more efficiently and effectively.
Coordinating Your Support Network
A team of friends, family and paid help is a great asset to any busy caretaker, but more helpers can make for a complicated and confusing care calendar, particularly if everyone involved isn't on the same page in terms of the schedule.
Apps like CaringBridge and Lotsa Helping Hands can help address the communication gap by allowing a caregiver to create and share a private resource for coordinating and scheduling all aspects of collaborative care, from meals to medical appointments. These apps allow caregivers to request help and give updates to community members, so everyone is looped in. Lotsa Helping Hands also has a feature that allows you to post comprehensive information that will be relevant to your care team, including your loved one's address, birthdate, emergency contacts, general health information, allergies and names of their doctors and care facilities. Google Groups is also a great tool for communicating efficiently with your support network.
If you're after a versatile to-do list app that isn't explicitly for caregivers, Wunderlist is an easy-to-use and aesthetically pleasing tool that can also help you manage other aspects of your schedule. Create lists for chores, appointments, holidays, shopping, medications, and anything else you need to be reminded of. Like the previous apps, Wunderlist allows you to share lists and assign tasks to a select network of friends, family and support. Friends and family can add real-time comments or even check off specific items on your to-do list, so communication has a clear and timely context, and push notifications keep you up to speed on new activity within the app.
Managing Medical Appointments/Records
CareZone is a free app that allows you to manage your loved one's medications, medical appointments and prescription refills. The app also has space for notes, to-do lists and photos and files for storing pertinent documents. Like CaringBridge and Lotsa Helping Hands, CareZone allows you to share your loved one's information with a select group of your support team, so you can create a calendar for coordinated care.
Wikipedia may be your go-to for general knowledge, but if you have a question about geriatric care, you may want to turn to a more strictly curated source. Created by a geriatric care specialist, Elder 411 (not available for Android) provides a wealth of experience-based expert advice organized around 11 topics, including safety, legal, financial and communication. Browse by topic or use the search feature to go straight to your query. And for first aid at your fingertips, go for the First Aid App by the American Red Cross, which offers advice and information for dealing with everyday emergencies.
Take Time to Breathe
Sometimes busy caretakers need a reminder to take some down time for their own health. In case you need a reminder to create some space for yourself, try a guided meditation app like Headspace, or a deep-breathing guide like Breathe2Relax .