The importance of keeping a caregiver journal

It is my opinion that there are many important reasons why caregivers should keep a daily, or at least, weekly journal.

First and foremost, if something should ever happen to them, that journal could then act as a how-to-manual for whoever has to step into their place.

I’m not trying to turn every caregiver into a writer, but their loved ones’ daily routines should be jotted down. Their routines become even more crucial when there is outside help involved, such as a home health care agency or even hospice care.

These agency employees should be required to report in the journal what tasks they perform each and every day. The one thing I’ve learned about having home care is that they don’t always come at the same time each day, and it’s not even always the same person. This makes it very difficult for loved ones to keep any type of routine and that will only increase their confusion immensely.

Throughout the years of caring for my father, I found that a most important benefit to journaling was that it gave me an opportunity to vent my frustrations. It became very therapeutic for me, but if you start venting a little too intensely, and find that your words are a bit on the private side, you may want to keep a separate personal journal just for that.

Linda Burhans of Seminole, author of “Good Night and God Bless” instructs a workshop for caregivers called “Journaling to Cope.” She feels that writing down these deep feelings helps those built-up emotions escape from your head and your heart and helps you to place them somewhere safe. She says, “The physicality of writing about your feelings begins the process of exploration and eventually resolution and stress relief.”

A journal should contain for you and those assisting you the following information:

A description of who holds the Durable Power of Attorney and who are Health Care Surrogates.

Family contact information.

Medical contacts: doctors, pharmacies, insurance companies including the policy numbers.

All medications and dosage and the times of day they should be administered.

Times of meals and what foods are not allowed to be eaten.

If you have a pet, put down the time of day they need to be walked and their diet and upkeep instructions.

Consider this to be part of your back-up plan in case of emergency. While writing the introduction to your journal, describe it as if you were leaving step-by-step instructions for someone to take over your caregiving duties completely.

I’ve always stressed that routine is vital when caring for someone who is memory-impaired. Keep that as your top priority when writing this journal and always remember this: “If you don’t have a back-up plan, you don’t have a plan at all.”