Keeping a Diary for Those with Dementia (and Others)

March 28, 2016
Journal writing is beneficial for in home caregivers

Keeping a diary can help those who have dementia.

The memory loss that accompanies dementia is a big challenge for both the individual suffering the loss and those that care for the individual.  One tactic that may help in this area is to keep a diary for your loved one with dementia.

Not just for teens

Diaries are not just a way for teen-aged girls to record their deepest, innermost thoughts and secrets; they can play a valuable role in helping a person with memory issues keep track of their daily lives.

For example, consider this scenario: Mother is paid a lengthy visit by a dear old friend with whom she used to play bridge. Later that evening, some hours after the friend has left, Mother sighs and mentions that her friends have forgotten her and it’s been ages since any of them have visited her.

Sometimes reminding her of the friend’s visit that afternoon will bring the memory back, but often it won’t; however, if you have the friend write in the diary on the day that she visits, you can show Mother the entry and gently remind her of the visit. It’s even better if you have written down a paragraph or two about what she and the friend talked about, what the friend wore, or what the two of them ate for a snack during the visit. If you can, take a quick photograph and put that in the diary as well.

This may bring back a memory of the visit, and the two of you can talk about how nice it was to see the friend. Even if it doesn’t jog the memory, it at least serves the purpose of reminding Mother that she did have a visit; she will feel better knowing that someone cared enough to call on her like that.

Not just for visits

The diary shouldn’t be just used for those occasional visits. Make a practice of writing in it every day.  Among the things that you might record:

  • Everything that your loved one had to eat and drink that day. You may be able to use this to start a conversation about your loved one’s fondness for, say, sweets; more importantly, you’ve got a record in case any tummy troubles develop.
  • Major activities that were undertaken today.  If you and your father made a trip to the doctor’s office, had a nice walk in the park or watched his granddaughter play basketball, make a note of it.
  • Special things that occurred.  Did Junior finally make that long-overdue phone call?  Was today the day that your loved one planted the bulbs in the garden?  Have the birds started flying south?  Mark it down!
  • The plots of TV show that you watch together. This is especially helpful if you are watching a show with a continuing storyline.  Jotting down key moments will help you recap things when your loved one can’t quite keep up.

It can be a collaboration

If possible, engage your loved one in what you write in the diary.  Make a routine of sitting down at the end of the day and saying, “Here’s what I wrote down” and talk about the items you included.  Then make sure to ask if there’s anything you forgot that he or she thinks should be included.

Dementia can be a challenge, but there are things you can do to make things a little easier.  Best of all, working on the diary can be enjoyable – and a way to keep your own memory sharper!

Jason Sager

We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior who could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Fairfax Annandale, please call us at 703.750.6644 or email us. We work with most long term care insurance companies as well as Veterans Affairs, and Workers' Compensation.

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