How to Set Up a Caregiver Journal + Free Templates

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

A caregiver journal can be a lifesaver for you and your loved one. Keeping a record of caregiving tasks and items, your feelings, emotions, and self-care efforts will make you a stronger caregiver. You and your loved one will benefit. 

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Some people prefer online recordkeeping, but the advantage of a notebook or other caregiver journal is that you can carry it with you everywhere and make notes and additions when you may not have access to an online record. And something is reassuring about journal keeping that uses pen and paper. 

We will give you some ideas on setting up your caregiver journal and what you may or may not wish to include. You might even consider two journals—one for your caregiving journey and the other for keeping track of all of the vital information needed to care for your loved one. 

What’s a Caregiver Journal?

When we use the term “journal,” we mean, for the most part, a private place to express yourself, but recordkeeping is also appealing to some for the fact that it can serve two purposes.

A caregiver journal can be the place where you jot down reminders, jog your memory about activity ideas for your loved one, or “to-do” items for the future.  Bottom line: a caregiver journal belongs to you and reflects your needs.

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How Can Caregivers Benefit from Using a Journal?

The benefits to caregivers from using a journal are numerous. You may find some surprisingly positive outcomes from keeping a journal. Don’t be afraid to be creative and try new ways of expressing yourself.

The act of writing releases helpful hormones and facilitates healing, creativity, and mindfulness. Journaling is therapeutic. Some of the benefits of using a journal you may not have thought of include some of the following. You may find others.

Relief of stress

Caregiver stress and burnout are common consequences of caregiving. Feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and resentment can bubble up every day, leading to depression and anxiety. Writing about your feelings in a journal helps to release those emotions in an appropriate and safe place. You’ll feel calmer and less stressed by writing about your feelings. 

Develop communication strategies

The fantastic thing about writing is that it can help you see solutions to problems. Some of these problems might be practical caregiving tasks, but others have to do with communication and relationships. You could have conflicts or disagreements with family members or even your loved one. 

Keeping a journal will give you ideas on how to communicate more clearly and compassionately. You might want to include tips on communicating with certain family members to keep emotions manageable. 

Coping strategies

Here is where a journal can make such a big difference in your life and that of your loved one. If you aren’t coping well, caregiving will take a toll on your physical and mental health. Some coping strategies such as meditation or yoga may work very well, and others won’t resonate with you. Keeping track of what works will give you a record of strategies to refer to when you need them most. 

Problem solving

All sorts of problems arise during caregiving. Some have to do with how to provide specific tasks or improve the daily life of your loved one. Writing down ideas can get your creative juices flowing and spur you to try new ideas. Then you can come back later and write down how things went—were your ideas successful, or do you need to go back and try something else?

A record of your loved one’s journey

When you’re in the thick of caregiving, it can be challenging to keep track of progress or regression. Particularly for people who have dementia or neurological conditions, symptom-tracking can have significant benefits. Keeping a record of behaviors, functional ability, cognition, and mood will give you, and importantly, the healthcare provider valuable information.

If your loved one’s condition is worsening, perhaps additional treatments or interventions can help. You can also use the journal to write down questions for the next doctor’s visits and write down the answers while you are there. 

What’s Typically Included Caregiver Journal?

Your caregiver journal is unique to you and your needs. Some people prefer a simple journal just to express emotions and ideas. Others like to combine recordkeeping with information and expressions. You might try several ways to keep a journal and end up with two or three separate journals, one for each purpose.

  • Medical information

Medical information includes diagnoses, medications, and healthcare providers. You might prefer an online method of tracking this information, but many people like the simplicity and portability of paper and pen. Keeping track of who you talked to, what was discussed, and their phone number will save time and keep you organized.

  • Caregiving tasks

Tracking caregiving tasks will give you a more accurate picture of all that you do during a day. Why is this helpful? One reason is that it can provide a realistic view of your caregiving role and help you delegate. Caregiving can seem like going into battle each day, and when you are in it, you don’t realize how time-consuming and stressful it is. Taking an objective view of all that you do can prompt you to get help.

  • Personal wellbeing goals

When you write something down, it becomes real. Coping with stress requires an effort to develop goals to stay healthy and centered. Setting daily or weekly stress management goals leads to success. Examples might include a plan to take a daily walk or check in with friends you haven’t talked to in a while. Keep your goals achievable and realistic so that you don’t get discouraged. Don’t be afraid to adjust self-care goals to ensure that you meet them.

  • Emotions

When you think of a journal, you most likely imagine a place to express your deepest and most personal thoughts and feelings. Journaling has been found to improve mood, enhance wellbeing, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. The greatest value in keeping a caregiver journal is that it is private. You can express feelings without judgement or consequences. Starting a journal can feel awkward at first, but once you stick with it, it will get easier and you will begin to see and feel the benefits. 

Caregiver Journal Prompt Ideas

As you start to consider a caregiver journal, you may feel overwhelmed about how to begin and what to include. Caregiver journal prompts are questions that get you started and keep you in the flow of writing. 

What is one thing I can do for self-care today?

Yes, you have your self-care goals, but identifying one at the start of each day will put you on track to actually do it. One self-care goal is achievable and possible.

What am I grateful for?

Gratitude is a powerful emotion and one that can change your entire outlook on your situation. A day of caregiving tasks, frustrations, and stress is overwhelming and frustrating. Finding the things you’re grateful for will put things into a healthier perspective. Ideas include being grateful for friends and family, or the caregiving journey which is the opportunity to give and to learn. 

What can I improve on today?

Improvement can take the form of a change in how you communicate, time management, or a different way to approach caregiving tasks. 

What are some caregiving resources I can use?

Accessing caregiver resources such as online educational websites or local caregiver support groups can be invaluable for getting emotional and practical support. It is not unusual for caregivers to slip into the mindset of going it alone. The danger of believing that you and you alone are the responsible caregiver is that it can lead to isolation and increasing stress. Reaching out is healthy.

Name five positive things about today

After a hard day of caregiving, it’s easy to slip into negative thinking. Naming five (or more!) positive things that happened in your day will calm your mind and control your emotions. It will also set the tone for the next day. 

What relationships are important to me, and how can I improve those?

Before you know it, time has flown by, and you haven’t been in touch with the people most important to you. Relationships take effort and time to nurture and develop. Identify one or two people that you can reach out to. And don’t make it all about you, although that is important too! Ask how they are doing and what is going on in their lives. You might be surprised to learn that they, too, have stress and need your good counsel.  

Where Can You Find Free Caregiver Journal Templates?

A caregiver journal template can help organize your thoughts and tasks. You may very well prefer something very basic like a notebook or a leather-bound journal. Many templates are available online to download and print, and you can mix and match to find what works best for you.

National Caregivers Library

The National Caregivers Library has almost 50 free downloadable templates on everything from end-of-life issues to personal records, appointment information, housing, money, and insurance. You can pick what you want and need for now and expand later. 

Pinterest

Pinterest has a variety of free downloads on caregiver forms. There are daily activity trackers or specific forms for blood pressure or fluid intake. 

Springwell

Springwell is a non-profit organization for seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers. Springwell offers a free Caregiver’s Notebook. You can print the notebook or download it onto your computer and type directly from there.  

Microsoft Word

If you have Microsoft Word, you may not have thought of using their templates. Under the journal template search, you can find a wellness tracker, a creative journal, mental health, or just a writing journal. Under the medical heading, there are templates for emergency phone lists, appointments, and a pain log. The nice thing about Microsoft Word Templates is that they are fully editable, so you can adapt a template you like to fit your purpose. 

Caregiver Journals

Caregiver journals are as diverse as your caregiving journey is. The advantages of your caregiver journal are to keep you organized, express your feelings, focus on self-care, problem-solve and stay positive. So there is no time like the present to get started!

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