How to Balance Caregiving Responsibilities

Dr. Macie Smith shares best practices for sandwich generation family caregivers and how to balance their responsibilities.

Are you helping, supporting or taking care of an older loved one? If you are, it’s probably not your only responsibility. In fact, you may feel overwhelmed by the additional time it’s taking. And that’s OK. Because it is a lot of work.

The key to keeping it all together and ensuring you are taking the best care of yourself is to understand and then manage the entirety of your new roles and responsibilities.

Here are four steps to follow.

1. Write down everything on your master to-do list.

From tasks involved in managing your own household like food shopping, walking the dog, doing laundry, keeping up with car maintenance and paying bills, be sure to list the things you are doing for your loved one such as managing medications, coordinating doctor visits, doing household chores and keeping them company.

If you have kids at home, also write down everything you do for them from carpooling, attending activities, helping with homework, and making lunches.

2. Categorize these tasks.

They can fall into buckets, something like this:

  • Home/Community: Cooking & Cleaning, Errands, Friends/Family & Children
  • Work: Travel/Commute, Meetings, Projects & Tasks
  • Caregiving Activities: Medication, Doctor/Hospital Visits, Personal Care
  • Research & Coordination: Legal & Financial Matters, Care Arrangements, End of Life Planning
  • Self-Care: Sleep, Recreation/Hobbies, Exercise, Relationships

Think of each of these categories as slices of a pie. Some slices may be bigger than others, but it’s important to recognize that the size of the pie will not change. How then, do you manage such a big pie? Read on…

3. Now prioritize these tasks.

Some things may be time-sensitive so they will be higher on the priority list. Some things can be delegated, which may free up time for other tasks. Some things will be non-negotiable, most notably your self-care. If you find it challenging to prioritize (it may seem like EVERYTHING is a priority!), weigh the benefits and risks of doing or not doing a task.

For instance, If I don’t get to exercise, I am crabby and resentful and I take it out on my family. If I do get to exercise, I am more relaxed and focused. You can also think of workarounds. For instance, having food in the house is non-negotiable.

But, if you don’t have time to go food shopping, explore grocery delivery options like Instacart or meal planning services.

4. Create a visual guide.

A visual representation can remind you and guide you all day, every day. It can be a weekly schedule or calendar, a list, or an actual pie graph! Put it somewhere highly visible, where you will see regularly.

Just remember, like any new activity, it takes time for these changes to become permanent parts of your routine, to become habits.

But ultimately, you will become an expert at achieving a healthier balance that will benefit you in all slices of your pie!

Dr. Macie P. Smith is a licensed gerontology social worker who is focused on helping families support their aging loved ones through long-term care. Specifically, Dr. Smith educates caregivers on how to care for seniors with dementia. She is an advocate for specialized care and assists others in finding a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Smith has dedicated over 22 years of her life working in gerontology and assisting families in finding personalized solutions for dementia care. For more articles by Dr. Macie Smith, go to


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