Caring for a loved one who has dementia is often stressful. It can be challenging to understand and deal with difficult behaviors caused by dementia. Add in the daily stresses of work and family obligations, as well as the worries brought on by a global pandemic, and many family caregivers can feel lost and overwhelmed.
These feelings are common among caregivers. That’s why it is essential to find tools that can help you manage both care and your own stress. While you may have never considered yourself a writer, putting pen to paper may be the best thing for you and the senior in your care. Journaling is a key tool for family members to track what works and what doesn’t, to monitor a senior’s eating habits, safety considerations, and much more.
The following are some important things to track in a dementia care journal:
- Symptoms and care needs: Loved ones with dementia display a wide range of symptoms and have unique care needs. Writing these down in the moment can help give caregivers a better picture of how the disease is affecting the senior and what can be done to meet new and emerging care needs. Make note of the person’s level of confusion, ability to perform everyday tasks, etc. This can help you notice if the dementia is progressing and if more assistance is needed.
- Difficult behaviors: Anger, anxiety, and aggression are behaviors that many people with dementia display, and these challenging emotions can be stressful for caregivers. It is important to know what triggers the behaviors so that you can better manage them. Take note of when a behavior arises. What time of day is it? Where is the senior? Is it a noisy area? Do outbursts happen around mealtimes? At night before bed? Look back over a week’s worth of notes and see if a pattern emerges. Then take steps to help prevent outbursts, like moving up lunchtime if the senior tends to get hungry before noon or keeping the house calm and quiet if loud noises tend to disturb him or her.
- Diet: For many older adults, eating habits change with age. This is doubly true when a person has dementia. Often, family caregivers have concerns about a loved one’s nutrition. Keeping track of food intake can help you notice things like when the person is more or less interested in food, what types of food they prefer, how much they are eating, and more.
- Safety concerns: A senior’s safety becomes an obvious concern when he or she has dementia. Keep track of how well the person navigates the home and the objects in it. Does he or she seem confused when using a potentially dangerous item such as a knife or scissors? Are stairs becoming a hazard? Is the stove often left on after cooking? Does the person tend to wander? These notes can help caregivers get a better understanding of what safety modifications need to be made in the home.
- Medications and side effects: Many older adults take multiple medications for one or more chronic health conditions. Write down which medications the senior takes and whether or not the medications appear to be working well. Are there noticeable side effects? If so, this should be brought to the attention of the senior’s doctor right away.
A dementia care journal can be a uniquely effective tool for family caregivers. It provides a map that can help everyone who cares for the person better navigate this often overwhelming disease, increasing calm for both the caregiver and senior. Dementia care journals are also extremely helpful for a patient’s senior’s doctor, and can allow health care providers insight into whether treatment is effective and any adjustments that might need to be made.
Caring for a loved one with dementia is a big task, and no one can do it alone. If you have a loved one with dementia, contact our experts in Alzheimer’s care in Tucson and the nearby areas. Our team of dedicated professionals provide a wide range of home care services, including companionship and personal care, homemaking assistance, transportation, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and more. All of our services are designed to help seniors remain safe, happy, and healthy at home. Give us a call today at (520) 355-4787 to learn how we can assist you. Visit our Service Area page for a full list of the communities we serve.