I have always envied people who keep journals. I have started many times and then I got lazy and did not keep up with writing an entry daily, then not weekly, monthly, and finally not at all.
I think the key to successful journaling is to spend about 15 minutes a day with your thoughts and words.
When I was journaling, I found great joy in reading my entries. The words would ignite a sweet memory or sometimes a sad thought. But feeling an emotion made me feel more in touch with myself.
How can journaling help people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers? Many of the benefits overlap, such as feelings of gratitude, problem solving, a feeling of calmness. Writing can also reduce depression.
In the early stages of the disease, those affected can find comfort in writing down their feelings by expressing their fears and hopes. Writing will also help to keep the mind and memory more alert and thus possibly slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.
As the individual with dementia declines, reminders for him or her to journal might become more frequent; however, this could be very important to help the person for as long as possible.
Continuing to write can help maintain independence. It is not important that the words are spelled correctly or the grammar is correct. The only thing that is important is that the thoughts get put on paper.
When the words no longer work, perhaps art can be used to express feelings.
As any caregiver knows, living with someone with Alzheimer’s can be stressful. One of the saddest parts of this journey is when the loved one can no longer communicate. These journals can also help other family members to understand what their loved one might be going through.
Writing can be a form of therapy. It can provide an outlet to release emotions and serves as a way to look back at relationships.
Journals can also be helpful at a doctor’s appointment. The changes that occur and the timing can help gauge the success of treatment options.
Writing a journal of Alzheimer’s disease is beneficial for everyone concerned. Studies have been done that show that journaling reduces the number of doctor’s visits for some people. Blood pressure levels, asthma and other conditions improve once journaling becomes a daily activity.
The best time to consider journaling is when someone is initially diagnosed. Better yet, start today, and get into the habit of putting your thoughts on paper.
I am going to try to resurrect my journal and form a wonderful new habit of writing down my thoughts. Check in with me in about a month.
Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. firstname.lastname@example.org