Keeping a journal is growing in popularity, for many different reasons. Far from the “Dear Diary” days of our adolescence, it is so much more than simply a way to safely share our secrets and dreams. Writing in a journal is a wonderful way to alleviate anxiety, for instance. It allows for creative expression through writing, drawing, even just doodling to inspire ideas. But perhaps it is most advantageous as a resource for providing better care for a loved one with dementia.
Dementia and its advancing phases can be quite complex for family caregivers to navigate. It frequently feels like just when you have established a method to help with one challenging situation, a new one develops in its place. Journaling allows you to track:
- The time a challenging behavior takes place
- The situations and environment surrounding that behavior
- What helped (and what didn’t)
- Any possible triggers, such as fatigue, pain or discomfort, hunger, etc.
- And more
It may seem overwhelming to imagine adding daily documentations to your already busy schedule. Still, keeping it simple is equally as beneficial as long, drawn-out details. Stick to the basics, including information such as:
- Everyday signs and symptoms. Is the older adult disoriented? Irritated? Calm? Wandering about? Combative? Jotting down these details every day allows you to identify a pattern, if the problems are getting more serious, and what the primary cause might be.
- What was happening at the time? Is the senior getting upset prior to lunchtime every day? At bedtime? Whenever a visitor drops by? This information will help you create a plan to preempt the behavior. Perhaps lunch should be served an hour or so earlier, or a relaxing nighttime routine could be incorporated.
- Eating habits. How much and what types of foods is the older adult eating? Is she or he drinking enough to remain hydrated? If portion sizes are too large for the senior to handle at one meal, would it help to offer 6 smaller sized meals throughout the day instead of 3 larger ones?
- Bathroom needs. If incontinence is not yet a concern, it’s likely that it will be eventually. Sticking to a regular routine of using the bathroom can help, and keeping track of incontinence issues makes it easier to identify the best schedule.
- Safety issues. Write down any mishaps that occur in order to avoid an accident. Since the goal should be to promote independence in addition to safety, it can be a fine line to walk. The notes you take can help guide you in knowing when it is time for you to safely lock certain items away.
- The effectiveness of prescription drugs. Watch out for symptom changes as medications are given to see if any possible unwanted effects are being experienced. Having records to share with the physician about what you are witnessing and the details surrounding medications that may be involved will be invaluable.
- Doctor’s orders. At medical appointments, keep your journal handy for noting instructions and next steps.
At Anthem Home Care, a provider of in-home long term care in Portland, TX and surrounding areas, our professional dementia care team is happy to help with maintaining a journal to record this information and more. Contact us at 361-643-2323 to request your no-cost in-home assessment to learn more about how our skilled dementia care can enhance life for a senior you love.