Take Time to Write A Diary (or a Sharepost) About Caregiving Can Be Beneficial
Graduate school teaches you a bunch of 75-cent words that sound impressive. One of the words that I learned through my program is "metacognition." This high-falutin' word means, according to Merriam-Webster, "awareness or analysis of one's own learning or thinking processes."
The reason that I bring this word up is that I just was reading the August 4 issue of Time Magazine. The article "Dear (Food) Diary" shares a study published in the August issue of American Journal of Preventative Medicine that found that dieters who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as dieters who did. So why bring up this study when writing a sharepost about Alzheimer's? I would suggest that having a diary (or journal) about your caregiving journey may provide equally important benefits to both you (the caregiver) and to the loved one.
For over a two-year period, I've been closely following a case study - me. Having been trained in journalism, I have always focused on the who, what, where, when, why and how of other people. I never kept a diary until April 20, 2006. That's when I started writing a sharepost for HealthCentral. Once or twice a week, I posted the latest situation with Mom, whether funny, scary or unusual. I used this sharepost to rant about doctors, figure out how to work with Mom, and seek a better understanding of Alzheimer's. Quite frankly, this on-line "diary" has helped me keep my sanity as Mom mentally and physically declined and died. And in retrospect, I believe that this journal also has helped me work through the grieving process.
The reason is because writing these regular shareposts give me a chance to do some metacognitive analysis - to think about my own thinking, what I really want and what my decisions need to be (instead of making snap decisions). Through this on-line diary, I developed an intention of caregiving that served as my guiding premise during Mom's last years. By taking the time every few days to stop and reflect on what had happened or what would be happening, I had a chance to summon inner resources and identify external assistance that would help me do a better job. Writing this sharepost also helped me maintain a focus on something else that I considered important -- keeping our family together during the stressful time when the stresses of Alzheimer's and Mom's impending death could have driven a wedge in our family's relationships.
In the Time article, Dr. Sanjay Gupta noted that accountability is a key piece, adding that he shows his food diary to his wife. In my case, this sharepost has been read by many of my friends and numerous people that I don't know. I have to say that knowing that my writings would be regularly reviewed, I would reflect not only on what I would write, but also how I would act. Obviously, what I've shared in these blogs are my take on the situation, but I realized that by being honest about when I messed up in taking care of Mom, I could make better decisions for her in the future.
After Mom died, many friends told me that I did a great job of caregiving for Mom. Frankly, I agree -- I did do a great job of caregiving, even though it was the one job that I most did not want to have to do during my lifetime. Honestly, much of the credit goes to writing these regular shareposts.
I hope that those of you who have been thrust into a caregiving role will find some time to write. Whether it's 10 minutes of scribbling in a blank notebook or a regular post on this site, I think you'll find yourself doing a better job of thinking about your own thinking related to caregiving and then making better decisions. And that's the best present you can give to your loved one and to yourself.