By Russell Rawlings, California Education Organizer, Hand in Hand

A black woman holding a pen writes a series of tasks in a journal.

“Sometimes I find that I forget to make sure that all of my tasks are done, simply because I forget what needs to be done on that day.”

Hand in Hand member, Carol Crooks, shared this at an Attendant Employer Support and Education Committee meeting. (If you’re interested in finding out more about the committee, click here!) Carol acknowledged that she was frustrated and was in search of solutions to have all her care needs met.

Almost immediately, another member suggested creating a list of tasks, and using sticky notes or a checklist that would be located at a specific place to remind both Carol and her Personal Care Attendants (PCAs)/caregivers of tasks that need to be completed on a regular schedule.

This is a powerful example of why it’s important to create task lists for your (or your loved one’s) care needs. People who are new to employing PCAs/caregivers will also find it valuable to create a task list  before searching for a caregiver. (See our Simple Guide for Creating and Using an Ad to Recruit a Personal Care Attendant/Home Caregiver)

Here’s how to go about making your task list(s).

A black woman seated in front of a laptop thinking.

Step 1: Make a Big Picture Care Plan

It’s best to start with the big picture. Ask yourself: What does a typical week of care duties look like? Are there particular days that certain tasks must be accomplished?

A calendar can be a helpful tool in this process.  Use a dry erase board, large paper calendar, or an online calendar (like Google Calendar) that is easy for  both you and your team of PCAs/caregivers to see notes on these tasks. If you have multiple caregivers working in shifts, you can also keep track of who is working on this calendar.

A light skinned man preparing food in containers.

Step 2: Create a Daily Task List

Next, create a list of daily tasks to be completed. Begin by thinking about an average day, and asking yourself (or your loved one), “What is the first thing that you do in the morning?” and, “How or what could someone do to support you with this task?” Continue this process when thinking about the rest of the day or shift. It can be helpful to get very detailed with this step.

After you have completed a list of tasks for a typical day, we recommend organizing these tasks into a daily schedule. When you’re getting started, it can be useful to time these tasks — having a good understanding of how long tasks will take is important when planning for hiring PCAs/caregivers.

Here’s an example of what a daily morning schedule might look like:

Time of Day for Task Task Description Approximate Length of Time for Task
Morning: 7 AM Arrive to begin shift n/a
7 AM Assist with transferring from bed to wheelchair 15-20 minutes
7:30 AM Prepare Breakfast 30 minutes
8 AM Assist with toileting routine 30 minutes
8:30 AM Assist with showering routine 30 minutes to 1 hour
10 AM Kitchen Cleanup 30 minutes
10:30 AM Administer medications 5 minutes
10:35 AM (approximate) Assist with morning mobility exercises 1 hour
11:00 AM Prepare meal and/or light shopping tasks 1 hour
12:00 PM End of shift n/a

Two people shown in hand only preparing to take medication. On the left a light skinned hand holds a cup of water and on the left a light skinned hand of another person holds a pill.

 Step 3: Making Detailed Lists for Specific Tasks

In the previous steps, you may have identified tasks that require precise repetition or a detailed process. A task list, especially in the form of a checklist, can help you and the PCA/caregiver make sure everything is completed. Items on the list could include medication preparation or administration, personal hygiene, or meal preparation.

As an example, here is a task list that I have created for my caregivers who assist me in removing and cleaning my external catheter.

Steps for nighttime catheter removal:

  1.   Prepare a basin of water in the tub by filling the basin halfway with warm water.
  2.   Place one cap-full of detergent in the basin.
  3.   After my clothing has been removed, remove the leg bag and catheter with the following steps:
  4.   Unfasten elastic leg straps from leg by gently stretching elastic bands around white buttons (note: the elastic straps can be easily torn, so please use care when unfastening)
  5.   Remove leg bag from leg and hang off of bed, allowing for excess urine to drain into leg bag
  6.   Roll condom catheter down to remove, while holding leg bag straight in a vertical position
  7.   Take leg bag into bathroom
  8.   Remove condom catheter from the top of leg bag and throw away condom catheter into trash can
  9.   Unscrew and disconnect top and bottom hoses at the white connection point
  10.   Place both hoses and leg bag into basin to clean

A light skinned older woman is being assisted washing her hands in a bathroom sink by a light skinned caregiver.

Step 4: Creating and Testing a Care Task List System

Now that you’ve created some lists, test and evaluate them. Ask friends, family or anyone who might be familiar with your care needs to be involved in this process. Have someone who is very familiar with the processes you outlined follow the steps and fill in anything that’s missing.

As you are finishing, think of all the task lists that have been created as part of a care system. Ask yourself questions about how the lists might be improved. For example, with meal preparation, it might make more sense to have a set of recipes, and a collection of YouTube videos for any cooking skills that might be required of a PCA/caregiver. For me, with my example above, I was able to make the directions more clear by  adding photos of the equipment used at various stages in removing and cleaning my catheter.

Creating a care system is a process that will get better with practice. We would love to hear how you used this guide, and we’d like to offer you the opportunity to receive a free 30 minute consultation with a Hand in Hand  staff member. Click here to sign up to receive a consultation.