How much time DO I spend caring? I decided to analyse my time over a week. I drew up some charts, mapping each day on an hourly basis and made a note of any time I considered to be actually caring. I assessed the following categories:
- Fetching things (carrying things from room to room)
- Ironing (Nearly everything to iron is my wife’s. My few items are simple to iron; hers can be complicated.)
- Personal care
- Others, not classified above
These further categories I assessed at half time. If my partner were able to share them or if I lived alone I would need to spend half the time on them:
- Setting up TV recordings. (My wife watches a surprising amount of TV and we have recorders in various parts of the house. I may be cheating myself by assessing this at half time.)
- Arranging dishes in dishwasher and putting away after wash
Activities not counted:
- Taking my wife to the shops (when possible)
- Watching TV together
- Dealing with household bills and administration
- Posting on this forum.
The total over a week came to 17½ hours.
This is less than I was expecting. It certainly feels like I spend more time caring than this. I seem to be struggling to find time for myself, in spite of being retired.
Part of the problem I think is that the week is more fragmented. I can be called to care at almost any time, including the middle of the night. The biggest single category of care turned out to be fetching things at 3½ hours. The times spent seem short but happen several times a day.
Then there is waiting time - my caree indicates she wants assistance but in a few minutes’ time, not right away. So I am stuck in a period when I can’t get on with what I want because I know I’ll need to stop before long. I have a strategy to deal with this. When I return home, having been out, I sometimes get bombarded with requests when I have barely one foot through the door. In this situation, when I take my outdoor clothes off I dump them in my “floordrobe” (a section of the floor between my bed and the far wall) to save time for the immediate. Later, when I am caught up in waiting time, I use the time productively to move things from my floordrobe to my wardrobe. This is hardly a tidy solution and it procrastinates, but it is pragmatic.
Then there is shopping. During much of my working life I would do shopping during work lunch breaks or on the way to or from work. If I could not avoid shopping on a Saturday I would leave around 8 am to beat the crowds and queues, and be back home by 10 am with the rest of the day to do useful things. Now I am lucky if I can get away by 10 am. “Shopping” in our diary is a whole morning spoken for. We do have groceries delivered but I can’t buy everything we need by this method.
So there is a lot more to caring than actual time spent on caring rôles. Does waiting time count? Even if I use it to clear my floordrobe it is time spent not in the way I should like. If I can’t get away to the shops before 10 am, even having got up at 6:30 am, do I count all this time as caring? Actual caring activities certainly would not add up to 3½ hours but I am effectively constrained for this time.
Overall, a considerable time each week is spent on just being available to care, but this time is difficult to quantify. I sometimes have two or three days away, and a friend comes to stay so that my caree is not alone. That friend could make a case to be caring continuously all that time. Applying that argument to myself I could say that I am caring 24/7 just for being available. But if an official form asked me to state how many hours I care over a week, I don’t think “168” would wash.
How do others assess caring time? Have I overlooked anything? I should be interested in the thoughts of others on this. I am fortunate in that I have not had to battle with bureaucrats as Neil has - but the question could arrive one day.