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Stroke Smart Magazine

Fall 2009

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Tricks of Time
Managing the Day is Easier When You Have a Plan

By Stephanie Mensh (Wife of Stroke Survivor, Paul Berger)

When your spouse has a stroke, the whole family gets thrown into a time warp. Minutes turn to hours, days to weeks and time management goes out the window. My husband had a severe stroke from a ruptured aneurysm at age 36 and came home from the rehab hospital in a wheelchair, his right hand and leg paralyzed and with severe aphasia—the loss of the ability to articulate ideas or understand language. He could only say a few words and often mixed up the mean­ing of “yes” and “no.”

We found that simple tasks always took longer than planned—whether I encouraged Paul to do them on his own or I did most of it for him. Some of the biggest time-busters in the daily routine were:

  • Locating lost items.
  • Not remembering events until the last minute.
  • Not planning ahead.


Communicating effectively

The give and take needed to understand the other person’s needs, feelings, plans, desires and humor requires an immense amount of time, effort and patience from the survivor and the caregiver. While this is especially true for people with aphasia, stroke survivors and other family members with normal language skills can have communication difficulties. Take the extra time to communicate effectively. Miscommunication can result in mistakes, unwanted activities or items, and more time and energy spent undoing or redoing appoint­ments, purchases and hurt feelings.

The Business of Time Management

Many best-selling business books provide time man­agement techniques for the work environment that can be used by caregivers every day. Their advice is:

  • Define your priorities.
  • Focus your time on these priorities.
  • Let other things go.

They suggest that you recognize and avoid the behaviors that waste time. It is difficult to include the caregiver’s needs as a priority when the survivor’s needs seem so overwhelming. The resulting guilt, worry and conflict waste time and energy.

One of the sacrifices I made to give me more time for other caregiving and personal demands were certain housekeeping chores. We keep the kitchen counters and sink clean, but the floors can show smudges for days, closets and drawers are disorganized, the potholders and aprons need to be washed, there’s a pile of “important” mail and magazines at least two months old that should be sorted, and a scary corner with odd batteries, clips and other things I haven’t looked at for a very long time.

Here are some of the tricks that we have used to help us manage our time:

  • We have a daily routine. Doing the same things the same way every day builds speed and competency for the survivor, the caregiver, family and friends.
  • We have a waterproof clock in the shower so I remember I’m not at the spa.
  • Paul does the dinner dishes, cleans the kitchen and gets the coffee maker set up before he goes to bed.


We prepare what to wear the night before.

  • I write down anything important to do or remember and stick the note near the coffee maker.
  • I keep my handbag, cell phone charger and keys in the same place by the front door.
  • I check weather and traffic reports and try to build in extra time or alternate routes before I
  • leave the house.
  • I use the reminders on my electronic Outlook calendar and send myself e-mails to stay organized and on time.
  • I fill up the car before the gas gauge goes below half, so I don’t have to fill up when I’m pressed for time.

Importantly, I am learning to say “no.”


Look in a book:

Dummies series, Successful Time Management for Dummies

Suzy Welch, 10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea (How to put everyday choices and decisions into perspective.

Kenneth Blanchard, The One Minute Manager

Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

John Maxwell, Leadership 101

Look on a Web site:

Mindtools.com: The time management section is helpful and quick to read.


Stephanie Mensh provides caregiver information at: strokesurvivor.com and can be reached by e-mail at: Stephanie@strokesurvivor.com.


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