Keep a Caregiver Diary
If several family members or friends are filling the caregiver role for someone you love, it is a good idea to keep a diary of observations, doctor's appointments, changes in medications and daily routines.
Even if only one person is the family caregiver, keeping a diary is a good tool to have on hand when you do speak with doctors or home care assistants. It is easy to lose track of time and then not remember if a certain change in behaviour started 10 days, one week or two weeks ago. Ask your respite helpers(s) to make notes in the diary too.
Perhaps most important is keeping a list of your loved ones medications - prescription and over the counter - It can make a difference when you visit the doctor or pharmacist and a new medication is recommended. Note the dosage and frequency of all medications and discuss them with the doctor. You want to avoid complications which can arise when two or more medications are not compatible. Try to use the same pharmacy all the time. Get to know the pharmacist and do not hesitate to ask questions.
The list of medications and care information is necessary for other family members too. If they only provide the occasional respite care, it is difficult to remember all that they need to know about your loved one and his needs.
Keep notes of:
- Regular daily routines: watching TV, reading newspapers or books together or playing games.
- Medical and/or therapy routines
- Dietary preferences or requirements
- Track changes in the intensity of pain or discomfort
- Note any change in the ability to communicate or remember
- List the names and contact information for Doctors, Therapists, church visitors, neighbours or others involved in caregiving
- Keep track of finances: what are the charges for medications, transportation, home care?
Summarize at the end of each day: what did we talk about, what did we do, what was good and what was maybe not so good today?
If your loved one is living in a long-term care facility, it is just as important to keep a diary of your observations; your contact with staff, any changes in routines or medications, and any other changes you notice. Talk with the staff on a regular basis and make notes.
Keep your diaries: they are a roadmap to what your loved one and you have experienced. You may find that sharing them with someone else in a similar situation helps you both.