Importance of Journal Keeping in Caregiving

Whether you yourself take care of elderly parents or get assistance from geriatric caregiving manager, a journal is an indispensable tool for caregiving. A caregiver journal is a daily account of patient care. It is a detailed view of what the patient says and does, as well as a record of moods, behaviors, doctor appointments and changes in the situation. A journal is a convenient caregiver tool; it can save a lot of time, energy and stress on a new caregiver who is expected to remember countless details. Keeping a journal is also a way to record important details about the caregiver and what she (or he) is going through on any given day.

Why a Caregiver Needs a Journal

A caregiver’s responsibilities are many, and the work is demanding. Not all family members will want to lend a hand; they may not even fully understand the patient’s condition. However, those who choose to remain in the background are also the people most likely to step forward and voice criticism.

Keeping a caregiver’s journal is time-consuming, but it could pay off in the long run. In a not-so-extreme situation, documented information and dated photos could come in handy in the courtroom. From a medical perspective, journal details give insight into the elder’s day-by-day events and activities of daily living. It will hopefully show how a patient is progressing – or deteriorating – at home.

Information to Include in a Caregiver Journal

Start by recording the obvious. Write a brief history introducing the elder and include age, height and weight, nationality, personality traits and so forth. Paste several dated photos of the elder in another section of the journal (or keep photos in a special album). Document and explain the elder’s medical diagnosis. Specify how the elder’s condition is advancing or improving, or at what stage of the illness (such as Alzheimer’s disease) the elder is in.

Enter the type of medical equipment the elder uses, such as a hospital bed, trapeze, etc. Record the names of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and explain what each is used for. Be sure to note dosage amounts and dates filled. Be sure to include the name of the pharmacy, the equipment supplier (particularly for oxygen patients) and anyone else involved locally or online (such as a wheelchair dealership). It is very important to keep the elderly person’s journal information updated for emergency purposes. Know who to contact during non-business hours for help with equipment.

What Business Details Should a Caregiver Document in a Journal?

Be specific with facts. Too many times a caregiver has been blamed for mishandling an elder’s business affairs. Family members can get ugly when it comes to money and who-did-what-to-whom.

  • Record any money spent. Save receipts. This includes the caregiver’s money and funds used from the elder’s account, especially if the elder is getting benefits of any kind from Social Security.
  • Document and save receipts from utility bills, rent, food, etc. and keep track of what money goes for necessary expenses, utilities and so forth.
  • Keep records of all phone calls. Get the caller’s name, phone number and extension, ID badge number, and what office branch they are calling from.
  • Document details from all medical appointments, including in-home services.
  • Make notes and keep receipts (including gasoline) for outings with the elder, trips and vacations.

Document All Caregiver Duties in a Journal

  • A photo album can be as valuable as a written journal and lends extra credibility if a caregiver should have to defend any actions. Make sure the camera has the correct date and time setting. It’s also wise to note in the journal if anyone else is present during any given time that could be called upon as a witness if necessary. Additionally, a caregiver can:
  • Make notes of how much of the day (and night) is spent on caregiving.
  • List in detail the specific caregiver duties performed and the level of difficulty.
  • Photograph the elder at least once a month as proof of his/her condition.
  • Document the elder’s mood, keywords, behavior, activities, recreation, therapies, toileting habits, daily hygiene care, diet, sleep pattern and anything else that might be of use.
  • Make notes on the elder’s temperament: combative, angry, withdrawn, pleasant, etc.
  • Take photos immediately after any incidents involving harm or injury, especially any bruises, abrasions, or ulcers the elder may have.
  • Photograph immediately and document any injuries the caregiver sustained while caring for the elderly person.
  • Note any family members, friends, agencies, church groups, etc. who helped with respite, groceries, housekeeping, transportation, and so forth and what each person did.