According to the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, one in five Americans is a caregiver. Most caregivers in America provide unpaid care even while handling elderly health tracking. If you’re among the significant population offering care to seniors, you appreciate the energy and dedication that goes to caregiving.
Most caregivers have no formal preparation for their role since most are close family members. Therefore, they have to learn along the way. You may face challenges typical for caregivers, such as burnout and anxiety. Some activities, such as journaling, can help you deliver better as a caregiver.
Even more essential, journaling can support elderly health tracking. According to Pew Center Research, most caregivers opt to collect and keep information in their heads without any form of recording. While this may seem convenient and little work, journaling can ease your work. In this article, you’ll learn ten ways a caregiver can support elderly health tracking, whether you’re in an assisted living facility or home.
1. By Maintaining Your Health As a Caregiver
Multiple studies have highlighted a pattern of poor health in caregivers, such as stress and burnout. For non-medical personnel thrust into caregiving without any preparation or a place to vent, caring for a senior often results in sickness. According to AARP, 36% of caregivers considered their situation highly stressful.
If you’re stressed, burned out, and unwell as a caregiver, supporting a senior’s health will be difficult. They might notice this in you too and become stressed too. Like the flight attendant analogy, caregiver journaling might help you maintain your health so you can help another person. In emergencies, flight attendants first put on their oxygen masks before they can help passengers to safety.
According to a study published in the Advances in Psychiatric Treatment journals, journaling helps one clarify their thoughts, focus on one area, and offload information from the brain. Stress makes it challenging to concentrate and sleep, but journaling helps you focus. A healthy caregiver supports a senior’s health better than an unhealthy one.
2. It Will Help You Detect Health Changes Early
One of the ways caregiver journaling supports elderly healthy tracking is by helping you detect health changes early. In some seniors, health deterioration happens over time in small increments. For example, symptoms of dementia may progress slowly with random memory lapses, anger bursts, and mood changes. It would be much easier to respond to problems knowing how they have progressed.
Health tracking requires having real-time information at a definite time, and caregiving journaling helps with this. For example, you can seek dental services the day your senior dependent shows symptoms of dental pain. Your caregiver will help you discover patterns as they form rather than after they have formed.
As a caregiver, you probably spend the most time with the patient. However, sometimes small changes may escape your attention because you have other matters in your hand. While you don’t have to record everything in the patient’s life, journaling will offer a picture of what’s happening to their health.
3. To Provide Accurate and Concise Details to Healthcare Providers
While you may be the primary caregiver, you’re probably working with other personnel, including healthcare providers such as dentists, family doctors, and nurses, to support the patient’s health. According to PBS, 13 million seniors are hospitalized each year. If your senior gets hospitalized, you have the best information to give brief details.
A nurse can get incredible information from doing a triage. However, they’re limited because they don’t spend time with the patient. You do. While you could have all the information stored in your memory, caregiver journaling can provide exact details as they happened so the doctor can give the best diagnosis and treatment.
In other cases, the senior adult cannot provide accurate details about their illness. For example, if they have dementia or Alzheimer’s, they have a poor recollection of their health progress. Your caregiver’s journal can help the doctor have exact information from a reliable source. If your patient doesn’t have a primary healthcare provider, they can find one through their insurance company or healthcare sharing ministry, such as Jericho Share.
4. By Allowing Continuity of Care in Your Absence
In one study by Home Care Pulse involving 5,000 caregivers, the retention rate for caregivers is between 40-67%, and caregivers leave for reasons such as poor communication and lack of recognition. If you’re employed, you may not work with an agency anymore. If you’re an unpaid family caregiver, situations such as moving across states may cause you to discontinue care.
A caregiver journal can help support elderly health tracking even in your absence. Professional or personal reasons for discontinuing caregiving shouldn’t be the reason an elderly patient’s health stagnates. If the patient requires orthopedic treatment, they should continue getting it even in your absence.
Therefore, a detailed caregiver journal is one of the best gifts you could leave with your former patient. The next caregiver can access information such as doctor’s appointments, emerging issues in the senior’s health, and past incidences such as falls. That way, healthcare tracking doesn’t stop with you.
5. To Allow Easy Sharing of Information
Another way caregiver journaling helps in supporting elderly health tracking is the easy sharing of information. As previously noted, your patient requires attention from different personnel, most of whom don’t have access to as much information as you do. Information in your memory isn’t the same as the information on a piece of paper or in a mobile app.
Most unpaid caregivers also have other obligations, including work and financial planning services for the patient. Therefore, you may not always be available to give the required information. However, suppose you can record relevant information in a computer application or a diary. In that case, you can easily send anyone who needs it so they can easily access it even when you’re not around.
Further, in some instances, you may record some information that doesn’t make any sense to you because you are not a medical professional. However, a medical professional can review the notes and highlight a pattern that can guide them in diagnosis and treatment. Your notes are sharable, but your mental observations may not be sharable.
6. Help You Remember to Ask Questions During a Doctor’s Visit
One of the essential roles a caregiver does is accompanying the senior for doctor’s visits. The main reason anyone would need a caregiver is that an illness such as mobility problems makes it challenging for them to do basic activities such as bathing and dressing. Remember, the senior may often need to attend doctor appointments and, in other cases, meet specialized medical practitioners such as a podiatrist.
You can improve your effectiveness as a caregiver by describing the situation to a doctor and asking relevant questions. Sometimes, small mishaps such as wrong dosages can cause irreparable harm to a senior. According to one study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, one of the contributing factors to a medication error is patient and provider influence.
You can provide better care by asking follow-up questions on treatment options, risks, and things to expect. Yet it might be challenging to remember such questions when in the doctor’s office. For example, if you notice certain side effects of a medication, it may escape your mind when you’re in the doctor’s office. However, if you record it in your caregiver’s journal, you can easily ask the doctor.
7. To Allow Task Management and Delegation
You can’t do elderly health tracking alone. If you work in a facility, others may work above or under you. If you’re an unpaid family caregiver providing care to a loved one, other family members may be chipping in to help you. A caregiver’s journal will help you support health tracking by allowing task management and delegation.
Many caregivers start without recognizing they are caregivers now. The responsibilities may trickle in slowly and pile up. One day they realize they have to go to work, care for a senior, cook for their families and run errands such as grocery visits and visiting the computer repair shop. A caregiver journal can help you plan your day and notice peak times when your presence is essential.
If you’re providing care to another person, a caregiver’s journal can help the other party know where to pick from. You can also easily delegate when work is too much. It will be easier to track who’s doing what and when.
8. Helps You Not Forget Essential Information
One of the most crucial roles of noting anything down is for memory purposes. When you write down something, it’s less likely you’ll forget. Even if you forget, simply scanning your notes will be enough to jog your memory. To be effective in elderly health tracking, you need to remember essential information. What better way to remember than keeping a caregiver journal?
Modern medicine development has made it easier for seniors to get quality care. Technological development in healthcare also means you could get some helpful tools for elderly health tracking. They help you input essential information in real time before you can forget. Seniors can also input the information.
You can easily forget information such as time for medication and doctor appointments, especially if you’re taking care of more than one patient. Regular caregiver journaling will help you record essential information and remember it.
9. It Provides the Senior With a Reference Point
A caregiver journal is not only helpful for caregivers and healthcare providers, but it is also helpful for the patient. The patient is the primary agent in their health. Therefore, they need to know how their symptoms progress and overall functionality. A caregiver’s journal can provide a helpful reference point for their health.
A caregiver’s journal may not have medical authority, but it can give a patient an accurate picture of their health. For example, they can record how they reacted to treatment and how their symptoms change with treatment.
Careful detailing of the patient’s progress and activities can give them a sense of action points to take. For example, they may get more motivation to do estate planning. They may also be grateful when they observe improvements in their functionality. Therefore, a caregiver’s journal is useful to the patient, too.
10. For Legal Purposes
Lastly, a caregiver’s journal can support elder health tracking by providing evidence that can be used for legal purposes. Elder law may require certain requirements to be met to ensure a senior is not medically neglected. For example, caregivers may be required to check on the patient after several hours.
As a paid caregiver, you may be providing care to your patient, but family conflicts may arise over whether your care was adequate to meet the patient’s healthcare needs. Some family members may argue that the senior is neglected or that the caregiver ignored life-threatening symptoms.
A caregiver journal can prove that you did your job and tracked the senior’s health since the employment date. Real-time recording of activities you did for the patient and their response to treatment may be used as legal evidence for care provision.
Now you know the vital role journaling can play in supporting elderly health tracking as a caregiver. It will help you individually, the senior you’re providing care to, and the medical professionals offering care. While it might seem too much work to keep recording seemingly mundane details, caregiver journaling has multiple benefits.
Like any journaling, you don’t have to be too formal. However, you can use a specific approach to make it easier to share information. For example, you can use Ever notes, an elderly health tracking app, or a simple conventional pen and paper. You could also use apps to make the information more sharable. Whatever approach you use, caregiver journaling will benefit your dependents and yourself.