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When you think about being a caregiver, one of the first things that come to mind is elderly health and wellness. How can we promote health and wellness for an older adult and help them maintain a healthy lifestyle?
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When I first started taking care of my MIL, she was morbidly obese, uncontrolled Type 2 Diabetes, and high blood pressure. She was taking 16 different medications throughout the day and had bi-weekly doctor’s appointments.
Because my FIL passed away so suddenly I had very little idea of what her diagnosis were, what each medication treated, what symptoms I should look for, or what a normal day looked like.
I was so confused about it all that I resigned myself to the task of making her moderately comfortable until she died, which given the circumstances didn’t seem too far off.
Each day was a chaotic mystery full of questions.
- Is this symptom something I should be concerned about?
- What could be causing this sudden mood change?
- What time do I administer this medicine? Is it to be taken with or without food?
- Is sleeping more than usual and should I be concerned?
Why caregivers need an elderly health and wellness journal
Not only are we tasked with keeping track of blood pressure and glucose readings, weight changes, mood changes, sleeping, and a plethora of other statistics the doctor inevitably questions us about, but we are also faced with the monumental chore of keeping our loved one healthy and happy at home.
The information we have to track is overwhelming by itself. Without documenting it however, we can never hope to improve our loved one’s health and maintain some quality of life while they are in our care.
Keeping an elderly health and wellness journal takes away the stress of trying remember this inundation of information. It allows you to not only track health changes and challenges, but also begin to anticipate them and even eliminate them altogether. You are able to be a better advocate for your loved one. The elderly health and wellness journal allows you to refer back to similar situations and makes you proactive rather than reactive in your loved one’s health and wellness.
What is an elderly Health and Wellness Journal?
Now that we’ve taken care of why you need an elderly health and wellness journal, let’s talk about what exactly the elderly health and wellness journal is.
Quite simply, an elderly health and wellness journal helps you keep track of your loved one’s daily health and wellness needs. It’s a way for you to be proactive with the health and wellness of your loved one rather than be reactive.
I’m a digital girl so I keep my elderly health and wellness journal updated on my GoodNotes app. If you’re more into paper, keep it in a 3-ring binder for easy reference.
I know it seems overwhelming to get started with a health and wellness journal, especially if you’ve been a caregiver for a while. Just start where you are. Don’t try to fill out a complete medical history. Write down the information that is relevant to you today and work from there.
What should you track in your elderly Health and Wellness Journal?
Anything that makes an impact on your loved one’s health and wellness should be documented in your elderly health and wellness journal.
Our blood pressure changes as we age and it can affect how a person feels throughout the day. A person may start off with low blood pressure in the morning but get significantly higher by mid-day then go way down just a few hours later.
If you’re not tracking your loved one’s blood pressure then you might mistake the signs of abnormal blood pressure as severe mood swings, depression, anxiety, paranoia, or even sundowning. This could lead to mis-diagnosis, unnecessary medication, or even hospitalization.
If your loved one is a diabetic, this one is a no-brainer. Monitoring glucose is one of the easiest ways to help manage your loved one’s diabetes.
Just because your elderly loved one is not diabetic however does not mean you shouldn’t be regularly monitoring their glucose readings. This can help you regulate your elderly loved one’s diet to improve sleeping, energy, focus, mood, and appetite.
Keeping a food journal is extremely beneficial to your loved one’s health and wellness. You can find out new allergies, food sensitivities, interactions with medications, and even symptom management just by keeping track of food intake.
Many elderly illnesses and diseases use diet as part of the treatment. Our digestive systems change as we age. Foods we were fine with before might become problematic later. Most doctors will check diet first when new, unexplained symptoms arise. And many common illnesses that arise more as we age (UTI’s for example) might be preventable with simple changes to diet.
You need to know what medications your loved one is taking, what the dosage is, how it should be taken, what it treats, and any side-effects you might want to look out for. Make sure you note any foods, drinks, medicines, or activities that should be avoided while taking the medicine.
When the doctor prescribes a new medication, you’ll want to carefully track how your loved one reacts to the medicine and make notes of any changes – positive and negative – that you notice.
Don’t forget about over-the-counter medicines that don’t require a prescription. Sometimes we’ll give our loved one a very common over-the-counter medicine only to discover that it reacts badly with one of their prescribed medicine.
Even if you’ve only been a caregiver for a short time, you’ve probably already faced a sudden change in your loved one. Their behavior may have changed. They may have suddenly have had a mood swing for no apparent reason. You might notice their coloring is off or that they seem more confused than “normal”.
Tracking symptoms helps you pinpoint the causes and leads you to better treatment options. It takes a lot of guess work out of your loved one’s health and wellness and again allows you to be proactive in their treatment and head illness off before it gets out of hand.
Symptom tracking will also alert you to new problems that need addressing such as developing food allergies, medication sensitivities, or even new illnesses that require treatment.
Anything the doctor is concerned about
Have you ever had the doctor tell you to “keep an eye on it” only to get home and completely forget? What about the always convenient “call me in two weeks” to discuss whether a symptom has improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse?
An elderly health and wellness journal allows you to keep track of your doctor’s notes and make sure he stays informed about your loved one’s health.
The brutal truth is, your loved one is not their doctor’s only patient and as much as we like to think we’re getting personalized, special treatment, we’re really just another patient with another chart. Most doctors don’t go home and think about how they’re going to better treat your loved one.
That means it’s up to you, the caregiver to make sure your loved one’s doctor stays on top of your loved one’s health.
Anything you want to talk to the doctor about at the next appointment
It’s easy for us to think there is no way we’re going to forget to tell the doctor about that new symptom or how the medicine is working or the changes we’ve noticed in our loved one. We might even rehearse our conversation in the car on the way.
Yet in the melee of nurses, social workers, and labs as we’re rushed in for our allotted maximum time of 15-minutes with the doctor actually in the room with us, we always seem to forget the important things we wanted the doctor to know.
The night before your appointment, write down everything you want to mention to the doctor in your elderly health and wellness journal. Take your journal with you so you can refer to it as needed.
Sometimes, we are forced to discuss things that might be humiliating to our loved one. Mentioning our loved one’s confusion or bad mood to the doctor causes our loved one embarrassment and results in a lot of anger toward their caregiver. Note the things you want to discuss with the doctor and ask the nurse to give it to him before they come in. This way, the doctor asks the tough questions and you are (usually) off the hook.
How do you use an elderly Health and Wellness Journal?
So just how do you use an elderly Health and Wellness journal? It might look a little intimidating at first but like I said before, just start where you are. Don’t try to remember the past and create a medical history.
- Write down current medications.
- Start keeping track of blood pressure and glucose readings and begin your food journaling.
- Make notes of things as they happen so you don’t try to rely on your memory.
- Take a few moments the night before you go to a doctor’s appointment to look over your journal and make any notes about things to discuss.
- Take notes while you’re at doctor’s appointments so you don’t forget what was discussed.
Keeping an elderly health and wellness journal for your loved one will help you enable them to maintain a healthy lifestyle, pinpoint what they need most, stay on top of their cognitive wellness, and go a long way in maintaining a good quality of life.
You’re stressed enough trying to keep your loved one healthy and happy on a daily basis without the added worries of remembering the details. Keeping an elderly health and wellness journal helps you stay proactive, keep track of changes, and gives you some much-needed peace of mind.
Dont forget to grab your copy of the Elderly Health and Wellness Journal today!