The Many Benefits Of Keeping A Journal When Caring For A Senior Loved One May Include Improved Health
If you’re a caregiver for a loved one, you’re well-acquainted with stress. Stress relief is one of the many benefits of keeping a journal when caring for a senior loved one. Pegasus senior care experts in San Marino and elsewhere offer these journaling tips for you.
The first thing to know about journaling is that there is no “right” way. Your journal is by you, about you, and for you. You do it in whatever way most benefits you.
Your journal can be for your eyes only. Or you can share it with family and friends. Or you can compose it online in a support group.
You can set time aside every day or every week to write. Or you can scribble your thoughts between chores. You can write when you’re about to explode or when you’re calm, or anytime in between.
Your journal can be neatly typed or illegibly scrawled. It can be in a bound journal or on lined paper. Choose whatever best helps you express what’s going on in your life.
Keeping A Journal Is Part Of Necessary Self-Care
Whatever form journaling takes for you, it’s beneficial. It’s part of the self-care you need to be able to provide adequate care for others. Research has shown caregivers who journal reap improvements in their physical and mental health.
Your journal doesn’t have expectations of you and won’t get tired of what you tell it. A journal is a safe place in which you can:
- Comfort yourself
- Congratulate yourself on surviving another day
- Congratulate yourself on a job well done
- Draw pictures
- Say things you would never say aloud
- Show your appreciation
- Show your fears
- Write poetry
Your journal is a gift you give yourself.
The stress and hard work of caregiving typically lead to health issues in family caregivers. Those who journal visit their doctor less often and experience positive changes in their body’s natural defenses. They also report a decrease in their emotional distress.
You don’t have to confine yourself to writing about positive emotions. Getting rid of negative emotions lowers your blood pressure and helps you sleep better. Journaling also clarifies your thinking and helps you find solutions.
In the above study, caregivers were advised that they did not need to:
- Feel inspired or wait for inspiration before expressing their feelings
- Edit their writing or be concerned about things like spelling and grammar
- Justify or explain what they were writing to anyone
- Be concerned that they were writing things out of order
One of the purposes of journaling is to relieve stress. Censoring yourself or worrying about whether you’re doing it “right” increases stress.
How Do You Start?
So now you’re looking at a blank page or screen, and wondering what to write. Don’t panic. Start with: This is my journal, and I want to write about ___________.
If nothing comes to mind, describe the weather and how it makes you feel. Describe the room you’re in. Describe the meal you have in mind for tonight’s dinner.
Then try something like: Right now I feel ______________. I feel that way because ________________.
If you get stalled, you can try writing prompts. These are usually in the form of a question or an unfinished sentence. As you answer the question or finish the sentence, your feelings will start to surface.
You may end up writing something entirely different from the prompt. You can turn the prompts around to fit what’s going on in your life. For example, write a list of five bad things about the day instead of five good things.
The general advice is to write in your journal for a set length of time. That’s often not possible for caregivers. Write as much as you can when you can.
What is most important is to record whatever comes to mind. Just let your thoughts and feelings flow. No self-editing!
Various references are available. Two that others recommend are You Want Me to Do What?, Journaling for Caregivers, and The Complete Caregiver Journal Workbook. An internet search for caregiving journals will yield a multitude of resources.
You Can Keep Additional Journals For Specific Purposes
If your loved one is cognitively impaired, consider keeping a special journal dedicated to their care. This may work better if it isn’t a part of your private journal. It can help you track changes in their condition.
It can clearly reveal patterns in their behavior that can help you improve their care. You’ll have accurate information to share with their medical team. The journal also provides a place to record medical recommendations, medications, and results.
A journal reserved for the loved one will keep family members informed if caregiving is shared. It can also help you answer questions for those not directly involved. It frees your mind from having to remember all the details for everyone.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our senior care services in San Marino and our other locations include permanent and respite care. We’re here for you when your journal tells you to take a break.