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The Road Map

This past Saturday, I spoke to a roomful of family caregivers at the Annual Scleroderma Patient Care conference. As the conversation wound around to the topic of journaling, I was impressed with how many attendees actually use a journal. I feel that writing down your feelings, thoughts and ideas on a daily basis is important for anyone, but most important for family caregivers. It's ironic, since I enjoy it so much these days, but writing was really my least favorite form of communication until I started caring for my grandfather in the early nineties. I remember driving home from the long term care facility in which he was living and flashes of the times we would have together when I was a kid would pass quickly before my eyes. I couldn't wait until I got home to write them down.

Over the years, I have spoken with caregivers who journal for a wide variety of reasons; some want to keep track of their loved one's care or what I like to call carejournaling, some use it as a way to vent anger and grief, which in fact has been scientifically proven to help keep these journalers healthy. In the mid-eighties, Dr. James Pennebaker, a researcher in Texas, conducted studies that show that when people write about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over three or four days, their immune system functioning increases. At the aforementioned conference, a young lady in the audience shared one of the most important reasons to keep a journal about what she does as a caregiver. She told us that if for some reason someone else had to step in to take care of her loved one in her place, they would have an immediate roadmap to follow. Now that's some smart journaling.


Gary Barg

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