Last week I shared with you about my Aunt Matel. Remember she had been a teacher for 35 years. In her final chapter of the disease, she would teach her students while sleeping. This was a comfort not only to her, but her family as well.
They knew that she was happy, even in the state she was in, she herself found comfort doing what she loved to do and that was teach. You may also remember my Aunt Matel started journaling. This journal is a cherished possession of the family. Aunt Matel wrote about her life growing up on the farm.
The journal revealed a time when she and her cousins went swimming in a nearby creek. They had failed to inform the family of their whereabouts. Her big brother, my Uncle Cozart Royal came up on his old horse and rescued them. Aunt Matel wrote about picking cotton on her father’s farm and how once again big brother Cozart encouraged her to finish out her row, with the promise of a soda at the end of the row. Her journal covered her life up until she could no longer write. My cousin would read this journal to her mother, she would also read scripture. The combination of both was to remind her mother of who she was.
Journaling is therapy to many. Both my cousin’s journaled during the course of their mother’s disease. One was more of a medical journal and the other was more on a personal note. Neither of the two knew that the other was journaling. They also had a visual journal, where my aunt would be singing those old church hymns she learned as a child. They would video these times and did so up until her appearance was too sad. These journals hold memories of times when Aunt Matel would say “I love you” or ask about one of her one of her grandchildren. Some days were good and she was able to remember and then some days were not so good. The family wanted to capture each moment.
I once worked with a caregiver that cared for her father. She journaled the entire course of her father’s life with Alzheimer’s disease. She wrote what he did, what he said and how she responded. She wrote how she felt, how she dealt with each situation and all her frustrations. I will never forget her telling me, this was how she handled a life of living with Alzheimer’s disease. When a person journals they learn a great deal about themselves. They can reflect on times when they were stronger than they thought. You can journal the “old fashion way” writing with pen and paper or you can recorded on your cell phone. And you can always do a video clip journal. Whatever way is best for you, whatever works for you, just take the time to journal!
According to Marion Karpinski author of a book I have in my caregiver library, when a caregiver journals it helps to reduce stress, it will increase well—being and it will provide an opportunity to enjoy creative expressions. Keep what you write so you can reflect upon it later and always date each entry. We can celebrate the humor and tenderness of life when we journal. I would like to share a few quotes with you; “There is no right way of writing. There’s only your way,” by Milton Lomask. “Writing is the ax that breaks the frozen sea within us,” by Franz Kafka. “Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it,” by Irving Berlin. “Expressing your enthusiasm can add years of creative life to your time on earth,” by Marsha Sinetar. “There will be enough time to do it all but not all at once,” by Wayne Sotile.
Keep in touch, remember to take three deep breaths! Hope you have a “Best Day Ever.”
Lesia Henderson is the aging specialist at the Sampson County Department of Aging.