The Health Benefits of Journaling for Family Caregivers
February 9, 2016
Family caregivers spend countless hours helping their loved ones. Often putting their own health at risk to do so. Millions of Americans assume this role each year. According to a 2011 study by the Alzheimer’s Association, 43.5 million family caregivers care for adults over the age of 50 and 14.9 million caregivers care for an adult with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia.
It’s not an easy job to take on in an often already busy life. However, there are steps you can take to help you manage the stress. One of which is journaling.
Research on Journaling for Caregivers
Researchers at the University of Iowa’s School of Nursing conducted a writing study with family caregivers to determine if and how journaling improves health. After 13 studies with 800 participants, they found that writing during stressful events promotes better health.
Outcomes from the study showed caregivers who journal made fewer trips to the doctor to be treated for illnesses. They concluded that it was because journaling helps reduce stress and gives the immune system a boost.
Improved health is just one of the many ways journaling heals family caregivers. Others include:
- Stress Reduction: Journaling reduces caregivers’ stress and helps them find resolutions to problems through writing.
- Minimize Conflict: Emotions run high when a loved one is sick or in declining health. Caregivers may face conflict with their aging loved one or from other family members. Journaling gives caregivers an outlet to express anger or frustrations instead of taking those feelings out on others.
- Time for Insight: Journaling gives caregivers an opportunity to reflect on their experiences with their aging loved ones. Life moves quickly during the caregiving process and making time for reflection allows adult children to focus on the meaningful support they are providing.
- Create Memories: With the added stress and a packed schedule, it’s easy to forget moments. By capturing memories in a journal, these moments will not go unnoticed. Journaling also gives caregivers the chance to read particular notes and remember the times shared with their loved ones.
- Provides a Break: Every caregiver needs respite. When caregivers do not get a break, their health starts to decline and they are no longer an effective caregiver. Journaling, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, gives adult children this much-needed respite to preserve both their physical and mental health.
- Instill Confidence: During the caregiving process, adult children may experience times of depression and uncertainty. Journaling captures everything, including good moments. Caregivers can look back on these positive experiences and realize their hard work is helping their loved one.
Starting a Caregiver Journal
The toughest part of journaling as a caregiver is often just getting started. It’s easy to put it off and say there isn’t time. But making time is important.
One easy way to do this is by asking and answering your own series of questions. A few to help you begin are:
- How am I feeling today?
- What went well today?
- What made the day more challenging?
- What am I worried about tonight that might keep me awake?
Once you get in to the habit of writing each day, you will likely find journaling takes on a life of its own!