Consistently taking notes on dementia symptoms can help you feel more in control of your caregiving journey, and can also help you better understand your loved one’s needs.
Taking time to accurately write down notes on your loved one’s behaviours and schedule-even small details that might seem unnecessary-can seem like a waste, but making a habit of taking things down for a dementia journal can pay off by making it easier to know how to deal with challenging behaviours and health emergencies. Here are some of the key things to keep track of, and how this information can help.
Dementia Symptoms And Needs
Keeping track of any new or existing dementia symptoms like levels of confusion, behaviours, and abilities to do every day tasks will help in keeping track of your loved one’s cognitive function, and will help you to figure out what kind of help they may need on a regular basis.
By writing this information down, you may also notice when you have started taking on more caregiving responsibilities, which can help you realise if you need to ask for help or turn to other resources. Without keeping track, you might find yourself wondering why caregiving has felt more overwhelming out of the blue.
It can be stressful to handle challenging behaviours like anger and anxiety when they seem to happen at random. By noting down carefully what was happening before, the time during which it happened, and what helped, you’ll be better equipped to figure out the cause of the behaviour.
For example, you might realise that the person with dementia displays frustration close to meal times, which might be an indicator of hunger. Perhaps adding a light snack to their daily routine will help with that particular trigger. Experiment with different solutions and keep track of whether or not this helps the behaviour as a systematic way of finding something that works for you and your loved one.
Keeping track of the person with dementia’s meals, what they ate, and even how much of it they finished can help you to keep track on what types of food they seem to prefer, times during which they eat more or less, as well as the nutrition they’re getting daily. This can help you figure out what types of food to prepare for each meal, as well as look for alternatives to foods that they avoid to make sure they get the nutrition they need.
Similarly, you can keep track of the amount of liquids which your loved one drinks so you have a better idea of if they are drinking enough and whether they’re drinking mostly healthy beverages. If you notice that they’ve been drinking less water than usual, you can also use this as a clue to figure out if they’ve been feeling unwell or dehydrated.
Incontinence is not uncommon amongst those living with dementia. If this starts to be a concern and the doctor has no suggestions on what could help, use the dementia journal to keep track of the toileting schedule and its effects.
For example, you might try to encourage your loved one to use the toilet every 2 hours and find that this helps reduce the number of incidents, whereas accidents are more frequent on a 3 hour schedule. By keeping track of the accidents that happen, you’ll be able to identify what best works for your loved one.
Corresponding with keeping track of their eating habits, you might also find that certain foods or beverages are more likely to cause an accident, and know to avoid those foods. You might also find that your loved one will need the toilet after a certain amount of time has passed since they last ate or drank.
Your dementia journal can also help you note down the effectiveness of a new round of medication, or if there are any side effects you have observed so that you can update the doctor as soon as possible. If you’ve been consistently taking notes on their behaviour patterns before and after the medicine, you’ll also have a better idea if the change in medicine or dosage is causing problems, or if the old medication has ceased to be as effective.
Summarising Information For Medical Appointments
Write down key observations and issues that you are concerned with so you will remember to bring this up to your doctor on the next visit. This will also help your doctor make a more accurate diagnosis.
Common symptoms you might want to keep track of include falls, pain, fatigue, incontinence, as well as sleep problems. Write down how often they happen, any patterns you have observed, and how severe the issue is each time.
At the appointment, take notes on what your doctor says to keep an accurate record of what has been discussed and what the doctor’s instructions are. With the amount of things you have to take care of, this will be more accurate than trying to remember it in your head.
For more information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Dementia Helpline at 6377 0700, Monday to Friday (9am to 6pm).
This article is reproduced from the Alzheimer’s Disease Association’s website. For more dementia-related content, visit www.alz.org.sg
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