5 Ways journaling can help seniors and caregivers
November happens to be both Novel Writing Month and Life Writing Month, which means it’s time to get scribbling.
Whether you’re a regular wordsmith or hated your high school English classes, journaling can benefit both seniors and their caregivers in surprising ways.
Read on to find out how a writing practice can help you remember, stay healthy and improve your relationships.
Record your life experiences
This one is obvious.
Have you ever wished you could remember more details about a trip you took long ago, or an inspiring quote you read in a book?
Journaling can give you a way to revisit happy memories, or explore past situations that you have mixed feelings about.
Family members and photos can help you remember some of these events, but you can also reach back in your memory bank. I know when I start writing about something I thought I had a fuzzy memory about, a lot of details start to pop into my mind.
So grab that photo album, a pen and paper and see what comes to mind.
Free up your worries
Many caregivers and seniors feel loneliness and isolation.
For caregivers, it may seem like no one appreciates all that you do or even know the extent of your duty and demands as a caregiver.
For seniors, you may live alone and worry about falling or your security alone in the home.
These are valid worries, though it may seem like no one else is validating them.
It doesn’t help to keep these emotions and fears bottled up. Journaling can help you process conflicting emotions, like for caregivers who may resent their loved one for all the time, effort and energy that caregiving takes. Maybe you feel guilt for thinking this, although it’s a normal response to the burden of caregiving.
Journaling can help you process these emotions and get things out in the open you might not want to share otherwise.
Help manage stress
To give you some (fictional) inspiration, the movie Here Today provides a good example of how writing can shift the narrative of a scary experience.
When Billy Crystal’s character Charlie starts to lose his memory, he puts off writing a memoir he was planning to write about his late wife. He’s scared to tell his kids about his memory loss, and he’s worried that people at work will dismiss him as an old, crazy man.
Spoiler alert- But with some encouragement from his unexpected caregiver/friend Emma, he starts typing away about how he met his wife and the evolution of their marriage and raising kids together. He confronts a painful memory that’s been haunting him.
While a novel would be quite a gift for a family whose father is slipping into dementia, not everyone has the time, desire or inclination to write a memoir. But everyone can benefit from writing about painful experiences or memories that won’t leave you alone.
According to Intelligent Change, journaling puts an “emphasis on the importance of resolving issues within and escaping the dungeon of our own minds.”
Confronting emotions and thoughts that you may have blocked out can help dissolve stress and tension.
It’s never too late to start a journal practice.
In fact, journaling later in life can help you remember new family members, things you did with family and friends and even how you were feeling about a health diagnosis.
Journaling can help the brain process information, as well as retain and retrieve it.
It’s kind of like writing down a shopping list. You might remember to grab eggs and butter, but you’re more likely to remember if you write it down and bring your list with you for back-up.
Be more grateful
We’ve written a lot about this at SeaCare, because it’s important for both seniors and caregivers to feel grateful.
Feeling gratitude on a regular basis can improve your overall health and help you look at your life in a different light.
It doesn’t mean that your problems will go away or that your life will suddenly become less difficult. It does mean you’ll start to appreciate the simple things more, like a hot cup of coffee or a hug from your spouse.
To see our tips on how caregivers can practice gratitude, take a look at this past blog.
Need even more helpful tips for caregivers? Check out our resources page.
Megan Marolf writes about senior topics and outdoor recreation from her home base in Seattle. You can read more about her here.
If you or a loved one you know are looking for additional support during this time and are interested in scheduling a free in-home assessment, please contact SeaCare In-Home Care Services today! A SeaCare family member is standing by. 425-559-4339.