Keeping a journal is growing in popularity, for a variety of reasons. Unlike the “Dear Diary” days of our childhood, it’s much more than simply a method to safely share our secrets and dreams. Writing in a journal is a fantastic way to relieve stress, for example. It allows for creative expression by way of writing, drawing, even just doodling to inspire ideas. But perhaps it is most beneficial as a family caregiving tool for someone with dementia.
Dementia and its evolving phases can be extremely challenging to navigate. It may feel as though just when you’ve learned a approach to manage one difficult circumstance, a new one arises in its place. Journaling allows you to trace:
- The time of day a difficulty comes about
- The activities and setting surrounding that difficulty
- What helped (and what didn’t)
- Any possible triggers, such as fatigue, pain or discomfort, hunger, etc.
- And much more
It might appear intimidating to think about adding daily journaling to your already overflowing day. Still, keeping it simple can be just as effective as extended, drawn-out details. Stick to the basics, including information such as:
- Everyday symptoms. Is the person you are caring for disoriented? Agitated? Calm? Wandering? Aggressive? Writing it down every day allows you to determine if there’s a pattern, if the challenges are becoming more pronounced and what the root cause might be.
- What was happening at the time? Is the individual under your care becoming irritated right before lunchtime each day? At bedtime? Whenever a visitor drops by? This info will help you create a plan to preempt the behavior. Perhaps lunch should be served an hour or so earlier, or a calming evening routine should be established.
- Eating habits. How much and what types of foods is the older adult consuming? Is he or she drinking enough to remain hydrated? If serving sizes are too much for the senior to manage at one meal, would it help to serve 6 smaller meals throughout the day in the place of 3 larger ones?
- Bathroom needs. If incontinence is not yet a problem, it is likely that it will be eventually. Sticking to a regular routine of using the restroom can help, and monitoring incontinence issues makes it easier to identify the best schedule.
- Safety issues. Write down any mishaps that occur so that you can avoid an accident. As the goal should be to encourage independence along with safety, it can be a fine line to walk. The notes you take will help guide you in knowing when it’s time for you to safely lock certain items away.
- The effectiveness of medications. Watch out for symptom changes as medications are given to see if any possible unwanted effects are being experienced. Having notes to share with the health care provider about what you’re witnessing and the details surrounding medications that may be involved will likely be invaluable.
- Doctor’s orders. At medical appointments, keep your journal handy for noting instructions and next steps.
Absolute Companion Care, a provider of senior care in Phoenix, MD and the surrounding areas, is happy to provide assistance with keeping a journal to record this information and more. Reach out to us at 410-357-9640 to request your no-cost in-home consultation to learn more about how our skilled dementia care can improve life for a senior you love and make family caregiving a more manageable task for you.