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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.
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
- 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
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
- leave the house.
- I use the reminders on my
electronic Outlook calendar and send myself e-mails to stay organized and
- 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
Importantly, I am learning to say “no.”
Look in a book:
Successful Time Management for Dummies
Suzy Welch, 10-10-10:
A Life Transforming Idea (How to put everyday choices and decisions into
Kenneth Blanchard, The
One Minute Manager
Stephen Covey, The
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
John Maxwell, Leadership
Look on a Web site:
time management section is helpful and quick to read.
provides caregiver information at: strokesurvivor.com
and can be reached by e-mail at: Stephanie@strokesurvivor.com.
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