A Caregiver’s Journal: Helping Family Supercharge Caregiving

On the heels of National Family Caregivers Month in November, which this year carried the theme of “Supercharge Your Caregiving,” here is a way to carry out that charge year-round. And carry it out we must, because health care can no longer ignore these folks. The Caregiver Action Network estimates that there are over 90 million Americans doing this critical work, which is largely publicly invisible, unpaid, and underappreciated.

The Josie King Foundation recognizes those giant numbers and the outsize importance of the role that family caregivers play in the life of patients. The response to requests from non-nursing staff and family members, they now offer the Caregiver’s Journal, a variation of their signature Nurse’s Journal. Their aim is to provide a low-cost tool that can help alleviate some of the emotional stress of serving patients and loved ones with sensitivity, commitment, and compassion.

The journal was created with the help of experts in therapeutic expressive writing and road-tested in several facilitated writing workshops for caregivers. Here’s what participants had to say about their experience:

“I felt stressed at the beginning of writing and relaxed at the end.”

“I felt purged and able to breathe after writing in my journal.”

“I feel like I understand things better after I write them down.”

The Caregiver’s Journal is a 61-page spiral bound notebook filled with helpful content, such as psychological theories about journaling benefits, before and after stress evaluation forms, and suggested resources for those who want to learn more about expressive writing.

The majority of pages are meant to be used for writing sessions, and offer an inspirational quote with perhaps a guided writing prompt. For instance, one is titled guided writing page is titled When Times Are Difficult, with this prompt:

“Things to consider. What are the current situations causing you stress in our work or in your personal life? How can you alleviate these stressors? What steps have you thought about to make this situation better?”

The page ends with a quote from abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Some “free writing” pages are empty except for a short quote, with this instruction about how to use them: The following pages are for you to write about anything that you want. Remember to go deep and really explore your thoughts and emotions. Avoid getting caught up on grammar or spelling. Just write.

Many hospitals buy these journals in bulk as a gift for caregivers or to use in staff training and development programs. For more information about the Josie King Foundation and their specialty journals for caregivers, visit http://josieking.org.

Jebra Turner is a freelance health writer in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at www.jebra.com for more self-care inspiration.