*Originally written August 31, 2009

How often do you find yourself sitting in the emergency room or a doctor’s office going stir-crazy while your loved one waits to be seen?

As my father’s health worsens, I am finding myself more frequently in ERs, at out-patient testing facilities or at one of a myriad of physician’s offices.  If you are a caregiver, then you have undoubtedly spent many hours in the physician’s office with your care recipient too.  Even if you AREN’T a caregiver, you will find these suggestions helpful to utilize during your own office visits.

Some of these suggestions require a little advance preparation but are worth the effort and will help you to accomplish more in your day.

1.  Delete photos from your digital camera

We all have too many photos and screenshots on our mobile devices. Browse through all of them and delete the ones that you aren’t going to print or add to your computer photo storage. If you have already uploaded them, then delete all of them.

2.  Write notecards, birthday cards or thank-you notes

I always keep a few notecards and thank you notes in my planner pocket  so that when I have a few moments, I can handwrite a quick greeting.  People love receiving them and handwritten notes have almost become a lost art.

3. Catch up on your to-do lists

This is a good time to go through your planner and……organize.  Cross off the things on your to-do list that you have accomplished, add new ones, and check to see that you’ve not forgotten anything.  Go through the address portion of your planner to make sure that you’ve deleted any old addresses.
If you have one of our mobile organizers for your care recipient, update that one as well.  Are the medication lists current?  Do you need to document any recent behavior changes?  These are all things that take time and can be done while waiting.

4.  Bring a magazine from home

The magazines that you find in waiting rooms are never the ones that you truly want to browse through (or they’re from 3 years ago) and I’m sure that you have unviewed issues of your favorite magazines at home (because there is never time to read them). Why not bring one or two with you?  It will almost seem like an accomplishment to get through one.


5.  Clip coupons


Bring along the Sunday or Wednesday coupon inserts from your newspaper and clip the coupons that you can use on your next shopping trip.

6.   Bring a paperback book.

A small paperback book will fit easily into most women’s purses and most men’s briefcases.  Bring one that is “easy reading” so that it won’t require uninterrupted concentration.  Paperback Sodoku or Crossword puzzle books are also good choices.  They are easy to “come back to” and also stimulate the brain.  One thing I have learned from my father’s dementia is that I want to continue to exercise my brain.

7.   Check your e-mail

If you have a smart phone or another e-mail-accessible hand-held device, read through your e-mail and delete the items you won’t need.  It’s a fairly mindless activity and one more item that you can check off your “to-do” list.

8.  Clean out your purse (or briefcase).

You may want to bring a small trash bag with you for this activity.  Get rid of the broken sticks of gum, unnecessary receipts, expired coupons and old to-do lists.  It’s something that I never seem to get around to doing at home, but am always “meaning to do”.  People may look at you a little strangely, but who cares?  You will have a cleaner carry-all at the finish !

9.   Play handheld games.

This is not the best idea if you have your loved one nearby. You want to stay present.  But if they’re in for an ultrasound or other procedure, they’re always a good distraction.

10.  Recipe Cards

I don’t collect as many recipes these days since they’re so accessible on the web, but I do have a few that I’ve ripped out of magazines or scribbled on sheets of paper while watching Rachel Ray, always meaning to transcribe them to a REAL recipe card someday. If you’re the same way, now’s your chance to do that.  I always carry a few recipe cards in my planner and grab some of the recipes that I want to transcribe.  That way, they make it to my recipe box faster and I have less searching to do when I want to prepare that item again.

11.  Needlework

If you are one of those talented individuals who can knit, crochet, cross-stitch, hand-sew, etc., by all means, bring your work with you to the office visits.  Remember, a stitch in time saves nine. (Did I really just write that??)

12.  Journal

In our Beyond Coping Telesummit, Denise Brown talked about the importance of  journaling and how it can help to relieve stress and help to find answers to your caregiving questions.  Journaling does not take a long time and can easily be done while waiting for a medical appointment.

13.  Do a short meditation

Because you probably don’t know anyone sitting along with you in the waiting area, it is not rude to shut your eyes and connect to the wisdom within you. Start by taking a long breath in to the count of 4, hold for 4, and then exhale to the count of 4.  Repeat this 4 or 5 times.  You really will become calmer but still alert enough to hear your name when it is called.

14.  Listen to a Podcast

I normally don’t suggest using a cell phone or listening to music on your iPod (in fact, many offices frown on that sort of thing) but I think that listening to a podcast (with earphones) keeps you alert enough to hear your name called and seldom will you find yourself singing along to a podcast .
You could learn a new language, learn more about your care recipient’s condition, and even listen to last week’s church sermon.
I do think that soft, settling music (without words) may be good for your care recipient though.

15. Write Lists


I have a book called List Yourself (as the way to self-discovery) by Ilene Segalove and Paul Bob Velick.  Much like journaling, this book helps to explore your inner thoughts on such things as the components of your perfect day, all the magazines you subscribe to, your favorite food ingredients, etc.  For people who love lists, this is a great book!
So there you have it.  With a little preparation, you should never go stir-crazy while waiting at a health appointment again!


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