Systems, gadgets, routines that see you through a crisis

ericasjJuly 2, 2008

Virtually the whole month of June revolved around my mother's having a stroke. There were some things I was really, really glad I had in place and other things that occurred to me as I went along. I'd be curious what tips other folks have for when you are exhausted, preoccupied, short on time, etc.

What worked:

Cell phone. Only I used it so much the battery kept dying on me. I've invested in a charger to use in the car.

Having our local toll calls long distance with our main phone company again. For several years I'd been trying to save money by using a phone card, but last month I was really glad I could just direct dial everything again.

Broadband internet. I'd only gotten it recently, and was glad I did it. Much faster overall, plus being able to be on the phone and online was a real time-saver too. Email was a great way to stay in touch with relatives. An email reminder service I already had in place was very helpful, too. I like Yahoo Contacts as my main address book.

MP3 player loaded with podcasts. A sanity saver when you are sitting in hospital for hours, just watching someone sleep. Also when driving, and when you yourself can't sleep.

Scanner/home copier. Scanned in my mother's power of attorney; now I can just print out a copy whenever I need it for a new doctor.

Voice recorder. Much better than trying to gather up all the little notes I was writing myself, and receipts. Now as I think of something I need to do, and as I spend money, I just say it into the recorder. Every day or so I transfer the info into Quicken and my computerized To Do list/calendar.

Shopping at Aldi. It's quick to get in and out. No sales to watch for, no coupons to remember. Their paper grocery bags are nice and sturdy for paper recycling. They have an abundance of cardboard boxes you can pick up any time, which I've been using for packing items for Goodwill. (We've been working on clearing out one of DMom's houses.)

Credit card. I'd sworn off it, but when things are so crazy that you're not sure how much is in your bank account, it seems safer than using a debit card. (My bank lets things go through anyway, then hits you with a fee.)

Automatic bill payments.

Taking walks. Doing a load of laundry every morning. Granola bars (need more snack ideas that can be carried all the time). Vitamins. Bringing my shredder and recycling bin downstairs to handle the mail where it comes in.

We cancelled Netflix for a month. I returned a bunch of books to the library, unread. Wish I had some reading material ready for emergencies that didn't have to be returned anywhere. I did order some TV on DVD from Amazon that we wouldn't have to return.

Any other ideas for streamlining and simplifying, for when this kind of crisis hits again? (Which I'm afraid it will, sooner or later.) TIA!

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erica, I hope your stress level is less than it has been and you're getting some rest. It sounds like you did well with some of the things you had in place, and eliminating the ones that added stress.

I put my entire phone directory into my cell phone. Now I know that doesn't seem like a novel idea to most, but having those restaurant numbers in my phone so I could call ahead a take-out order, or the numbers of all the siblings (and their mobiles) help immensely. I also carry an extra cell phone battery and keep in charged so I don't run out of power. When I change batteries, I make sure to charge the one that's run down that night so I'm covered.

I keep a small folder (like a checkbook cover) for receipts. That way, if I'm buying things for someone else (like my mother), I know exactly where they are.

I hear you about reading material you don't have to return to the library. I keep a few paperbacks just for those times, that I pick up second hand or at Half-Price Books.

Pre-portioning food and having it ready to go in the fridge/freezer helps a lot. In fact, I still do this so I can fix it when I have the time/energy. I also pre-portion things in little snack bags like crackers, peanut m&m's, pretzels, and have string cheese and peanut butter sandwiches always ready to go. I often make three or four sandwiches, cut them in half or thirds, and put them in the fridge. It's easy to toss any of this with some fruit in a lunch bag so you have something healthy when you just don't have the energy to deal with it. Hospital food is the pits. I've been drinking flavored carbonated water, which makes me feel like I'm having a soda, without all the sugar, to keep my energy more level.

I keep a basket of cards (with stamps) that I can send at any time, so if you need a Thank You to someone who's been a Godsend, you don't have to shop for a card.

As far as Vitamins go, my daily allotments go in small paper cups, so I can stack them in the cabinet. This way I don't have to measure them all out, and can grab it to go when I need to.

I like your idea of laundry and exercise; you're taking care of yourself, which is the best thing you can do. Thanks for your tips; I'm sure you'll discover some more as you go through this ordeal. Don't forget to come back and tell us about them.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 8:13PM
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Sorry to hear about your Mom. When mine was sick and in the hospital I use to bring home subway for the kids because it was in the hospital. I love subs and never thought I would get tired of them but I sure did. I didn't have time to shop. Food that can be heated up is a great time saver.

Never thought about a voice recorder but I am going to get one because you get so stressed that you can't remember anything or even who I talked to that day.

I usually carry around a magazine because if I leave it somewhere it is no big deal, or when I finish I just put it in the waiting room.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 8:36PM
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I'm so sorry to hear about your mom! If keeping everyone updated gets to be a lot of work, you might check out the website It's a place where you can set up a free website where you post updates about your mom, and once you let people know where to look, they can check for updates without having to go through you. They can also post their comments to it, which can be really nice to read through when you have some down time.

Here is a link that might be useful: CaringBridge

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 9:13PM
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I pretty much always have some kind of food or snack on hand. A topic dear to my heart. Here are some ideas for nutritional snacks.

Apples are good snacks that you can carry and that last a long time (a week or so) without going bad. Nuts also carry/keep well (put them in a baggie). Nuts are higher calorie, but they have lots of good nutrients. Walnuts are high in Omega 3s. Carrots would last about a day, but that could be an option too.

Trader Joe's has some dried fruit bars that I really like. Unfortunately, I don't have a Trader Joe's near me, so I guess I need to request a care package. I like these, they are made from dried fruit and no other ingredients.

Dried apricots are also good.

I keep energy bars and granola bars around, but I try to do as much "real food" especially fruits and veggies as I can.

Hope this was helpful!

Jean Marie

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 10:30AM
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From another website, I got "D-D-D' as a system. When you're overwhelmed, sick, tired,or depressed, concentrate on Dinner-Dishes-Duds, meals, clean up kitchen, and clean clothing for your family. DDD, get it?

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 11:44AM
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In that situation, my must-needed items were my cell phone, a couple of puzzle books and the daily newspaper. I even went through old magazines to see if there was anything worth keeping before I donated them to the hospital. I also used the time to cull through a few recipe binders.

My greatest help was listening to talk radio on my XM radio during the 45-minute drive each way to the hospital. The distraction of something other than my immediate situation really helped me.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 10:56PM
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I'm an expert at the moment on anything that makes life easier in a crisis LOL. I've been half bed-ridden for the past 3 months from a neck injury and finally get to the neuro surgeon this week, so even after surgery, I'll be thankful for the gadgets and systems that have helped so far.

My semi-retired DH would have to be my number one gadget.

Second, the crockpot. DH is no cook, but he was able to turn our some great "stews", by throwing in vegies, meat and flavouring.
My laptop...... I can even use it lying down. I've organized the office work and emails for DH's business, kept in touch, been entertained, and learnt a lot, all from my pillow LOL

Cordless Phone and mobile phone.

Denim.. I've found that in a crisis, it can be worn forever without washing.. well, don't tell anyone I said that. I was hoping people would think I just had 3 denim skirts the same, and DH and DS had 3 pairs of jeans the same. With a good shake it doesn't need ironing either.
Saved a lot of washing while I've been out of action.
Frozen bags of pre-chopped mixed vegies in the freezer. Add a hot deli chook and some sauce, and you have a "home style_ looking meal in an emergency.

Internet banking, direct credit, phone banking. We're leaving for goodness knows how long, to another city for my surgery, and it's such a relief knowing our bills are being paid by direct credit, and we can organize our finances over the phone, and the internet.

Some things I'm so thankful I'd already done before I had the injury, were:
A de-cluttered house, It might be a bit dusty and neglected in the corners because DH isn't the fussiest housemaid, but it looks presentable, and once I'm "fixed" it won't take much to polish it up again.

An office mail and paper filing system that works for us.

A de-cluttered house and a filing system for papers.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2008 at 3:54AM
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