By Lisa M. Petsche
Recovering from surgery or a prolonged acute illness takes time and requires patience. It also calls for practical adjustments, especially for those who live alone. Fortunately, with some thought and creativity, many everyday tasks can be simplified to make maximum use of limited energy.
If you or a loved one is convalescing, or has surgery scheduled in the near future, read on for ideas for streamlining daily life in order to prevent setbacks and facilitate your recovery.
You may wish to continue some of these practices after your recuperation, to minimize stress and free up more time for leisure activities.
Prioritize and Organize
- Curb perfectionism. Not everything needs to be done to a high standard; take housework and yard maintenance, for example. Set a time limit and use a timer for chores if necessary.
- Establish and stick to priorities, so you don’t waste time or energy on unimportant things.
- Perform important activities at the time of day when your energy level is at its peak. Typically this is the morning, or after a nap.
- Pace yourself. Break down tasks into steps that can be performed with breaks in between. Refrain from rushing or performing activities to the point of fatigue.
- Whenever possible, sit down to perform tasks – for example, preparing food and folding laundry.
- Keep frequently used items close to the point of use and within easy reach.
- Combine trips to the various rooms and levels in your home.
- If you have recently had surgery, review any educational materials that were provided. They may include energy conservation tips specific to your situation.
- If there are others in your household, enlist their help with everyday tasks. Be specific about what you need.
- Ensure you have a portable phone so you can easily answer calls, or an answering machine to take messages.
Meal Preparation and Home Maintenance
- Prepare one-dish meals, such as casseroles, stews, soups, stir fries and main course salads. Get a crock pot if you don’t already own one.
- Cook double batches of recipes and freeze half for later use.
- Keep a supply of heat-and-serve entrees in the freezer.
- Buy convenience foods that reduce preparation time: packaged salads, shredded cheese, fresh or frozen mixed vegetables and boneless chicken breasts, for example.
- Order takeout once or twice a week. Just be sure to make healthy choices. Keep menus in a folder for easy reference.
- Concentrate cleaning and tidying efforts on the rooms that are used the most.
- Do full loads of laundry whenever possible. Ensure you have enough basic clothing – including underwear and socks – to last for a week. Buy clothes that can be machine washed and dried and resist wrinkles.
- Replace frequently used manual kitchen utensils and other household tools with electric counterparts – for example, can opener, pill crusher, screwdriver.
- Pay for help if you can afford it – for example, a dog walker, housecleaning service, grounds keeping service, handyman or accountant. Or, hire a trustworthy neighborhood teen or young adult to do yard maintenance and perhaps also errands such as going to the post office and picking up sundry items from the corner store.
- Arrange with the bank for direct deposit of pension and other checks and automatic payment of regular bills. If you have a computer, sign up for online banking so you can pay bills, transfer money and check balances from home.
Shopping and Errands
- Shop through mail order catalogs, using the telephone or Internet. For gift-giving occasions, purchase gift cards; many kinds are available online, as well as on display near checkouts at department stores and drug stores.
- Take advantage of stores and other services that offer home delivery (for example, grocery stores, drug stores, dry cleaners). Keep lists of groceries needed and errands to be done.
- Investigate available community resources, which might include meals on wheels, housekeeping services, mobile hairdressing services, volunteer driver programs and accessible transportation.
- Coordinate errands and avoid peak use times of the day, week, or month when visiting stores, banks, government offices and other establishments.
- For shopping and other outings involving considerable walking, rent a transport wheelchair (lightweight and folding) if you have someone who can accompany you and push it. Otherwise, take advantage of electric scooters available for customers in stores and malls.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in health and elder care issues.