Family caregivers spend an estimated 37 billion hours a year providing support to an aging loved one. The physical and emotional toll this responsibility takes often increases the risk that a caregiver will experience a health crisis of their own.
Despite the risks, 44 million Americans are caregivers. The state of Washington alone is home to 900,000 caregivers. It is rarely ever an easy role to assume in an already busy life. Finding ways to manage stress and avoid burnout is the key to staying healthy and happy when you are a family caregiver.
One measure you can take that may help you manage caregiver stress and anxiety is to create a journal.
The Caregiver Journal and Stress Management
In a study conducted at the University of Iowa’s School of Nursing, researchers examined the impact of journaling on the lives of family caregivers. They looked at the health and wellness of 800 participants in 13 different trial groups.
The researchers discovered journaling helped to improve the health and wellness of family caregivers. Those caregivers who took time out to journal each day made fewer trips to the doctor to be treated for illnesses.
Because caregivers had the opportunity to work through their struggles on paper and find resolutions to the daily dilemmas they encountered, they were able to reduce their level of stress. This helped keep their immune system strong.
3 Often Overlooked Benefits of Journaling
Other benefits caregivers can reap by getting their thoughts down on paper each day include:
Conflict Resolution: Adult children and siblings often find tension and conflict within the family escalate when a loved one’s health is declining. Having a journal to use as a means of venting those feelings and frustrations can help prevent family feuds.
Document Memories: In the hustle and bustle of a caregiver’s day, it can be easy to forget the joyful moments. This is especially true when a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. Journaling gives caregivers a place to document the day’s memories and the tiny successes that make the role meaningful.
Improve Confidence: Doubt is a common hurdle family caregivers face. Worrying that you aren’t measuring up as a loved one’s guardian or that you aren’t performing your caregiver duties well is a common fear among caregivers. As you document the day’s highs and lows in your journal, you can reaffirm the decisions you made and feel more confident in your abilities.
How to Start a Caregiver Journal
As is the case with most new endeavors, getting started is often the hardest part. Journaling experts recommend asking and answering a few questions. For caregivers, a few suggestions might include:
• What were the good things about the day?
• What did I struggle with today?
• What don’t I want to forget?
• What concerns might keep me awake tonight?
You might find you enjoy journaling so much you want to take it to a new level and start a blog. There are a variety of free platforms you can use to get started, such as WordPress or Blogger. Doing so could help you, as well as fellow caregivers in the Puget Sound area who are experiencing similar struggles.