journalIf a friend were to tell you that writing could help you cope as a caregiver, what would you say? “There’s no way I have time to write! I already have too much to do”? In my early years of caregiving, I’m sure I would have said the same thing. But your writing doesn’t have to be polished, or time-consuming. And it’s a great way to think about your own needs when you’re busy taking care of the needs of others.

If you’re feeling pulled in all directions as a caregiver, spending a minute writing down what’s bothering you can be a real stress reliever. When my mother moved in with me and my young family in 2005, she was in the early stages of dementia, feeling scared, sad, and irritable. I wanted so badly for it to work out, having Mom live with us, but I knew very little about dementia or this new job of caregiving. Used to focusing on myself and the well-being of my children, I struggled to adjust to being a “sandwich generation” caregiver while holding down a job.

Two things helped me find my balance over those years:  talking with other dementia caregivers at my Office for the Aging’s caregiver support group (find your local Office for the Aging here), and writing. As Mom and I butted heads, I started scribbling my worries and frustrations on pieces of scrap paper. It only took a couple of minutes, but I felt much better.  I hadn’t written anything in years, not since college, but writing a few sentences here and there served as my “safety valve.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed as a caregiver, I encourage you to give writing a try. You don’t have to be a “writer” to benefit from writing.

3 Easy Ways to Write Your Way Through Caregiving Stress

1.  Keep a journal

In addition to those scraps of paper tucked around the house, I started carrying a small notebook with me each day when I took the bus to work. Writing in this journal cleared my head of what was worrying me, whether it was Mom’s reluctance to eat, her refusal to try an adult day program, or my frustrations with doctors and medical crises.

"You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers" by B. Lynn Goodwin
“You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers” by B. Lynn Goodwin

If the thought of keeping a journal feels like too much, I highly recommend the book “You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers,” by B. Lynn Goodwin.

2. Join a writing group

Over the years, as Mom moved from my home into assisted living, a rehab center, a “memory care” facility, and a nursing home, and as we navigated various medical crises, my journal filled up, and I took the writing a step further by joining a writing group.

Not every caregiver will feel that they have the time to do this, but if you are open to sharing your writing with others, a writing group can be a supportive place to explore your feelings about caregiving. (If you care for a loved one at home, getting away once a week to go to a writing group can be a rewarding way to get some respite. You have to take care of yourself before you can be an effective and resilient caregiver for someone else.)

A couple of years into my caregiving journey I joined a women’s writing group, and then later a different writing group for men and women, the second of which was called, appropriately, “Writing Through the Rough Spots.” The leader of this second group encouraged us to write about whatever difficult issues we were going through. Again and again I found myself writing about my mother, our challenging relationship over the years, and my ambivalence about being her caregiver. Over time, I began to write about more positive things, such as how I learned to slow down and enjoy my time with Mom, how dementia allowed her to live right “in the moment,” and how caregiving brought us closer together.

To find a writing group in your area, Google “writing group” or “writing workshop” and your location. Look for a group that welcomes everyone, not just people who write professionally and are looking for feedback on their writing projects. (A writing group for professionals is a totally different kind of animal.) I found my two writing groups through word of mouth and announcements in the local paper.

3. Write online

Facebook groups

Another easy way to write down your concerns and frustrations—and get some helpful feedback at the same time—is to join a Facebook group for caregivers. If you are looking for a Facebook community of people who can empathize with the challenges of elder care, here are some examples:

Senior Caregivers (for all diagnoses)

USAgainstAlzheimer’s Community, Dementia Aware, and Memory People (for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, caregivers, and advocates)


When I became a caregiver, very few blogs existed about caregiving. Now, tons of caregivers are finding the same type of emotional release and comfort writing blogs as I did those initial years writing on paper. Ann Napolitan, whose mother had Alzheimer’s disease, writes a popular blog called “The Long and Winding Road: An Alzheimer’s Journey and Beyond.” She first started blogging as a creative outlet, but over time it became a place to record and explore her thoughts and emotions about her mother’s worsening dementia. She says, “I’ve always found writing therapeutic, but as Mom progressed into the latter stages of the disease, that was even more the case. Nothing can replace what Alzheimer’s stole, but if my writing can touch others and perhaps help them just a bit, I feel as though there was a purpose to our journey.”

If you have time, you can start your own blog, too, using tools such as Tumblr or WordPress.

If time is short, you could just add your comments to some of these popular blogs by caregivers:

Missing Jim (by Karen Garner, whose husband has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease)
Alzheimer’s Speaks (founded by Lori La Bey, whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease)
Alzheimer’s—My Mom, My Hero (by Lisa Hirsh, whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease)
Alzheimer’s Reading Room (founded by Bob DeMarco, whose mother had Alzheimer’s disease)
Commonsense Caregiving (by Gary Joseph LeBlanc, whose father had Alzheimer’s disease)
Girlfriends with Aging Parents (by Toby Donner and Norma Rosenthal)
One Brave Cowgirl (started by Carol Fant, whose mother has vascular dementia)
The Art of Alzheimer’s: How Mother Forgot Nearly Everything and Began to Paint (by Marilyn Raichle)

Whichever way you choose to write, putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) can help you keep your sanity as a new caregiver, and help you slow down enough to appreciate the many rewards of this new phase of your life. Writing is also a great way to keep your own needs in mind as you focus so heavily on the needs of others.

How has writing helped you as a caregiver? Do you have a favorite Facebook group or caregiver blog you’d like to share with us?


  1. Brenda

    I’m always jotting something down and have since my caregiving journey began in early 2012. It wasn’t until July 2013 that I actually started publishing my thoughts through my blog. Thank you for encouraging me further!

    Brenda – I am My Mothers’ Keeper – A Job that I Cherish!

  2. Martha Stettinius

    Thanks for sharing your blog, Brenda!

  3. Lori La Bey

    Thanks for including Alzheimer’s Speaks in your article, I appreciate the mention very much and want to point out to your readers that from our link they can access Alzheimer’s Speaks Radio and the Dementia Chats webinars. All are archived in addition to the blog. For those that have services, products or tools please feel free to share them in our resource directory. Listings are free. Just become a member and input your information to share with others in need.
    Thanks again Martha. Keep up the great writing.

  4. Ann Napoletan

    Thanks for the mention, Martha. Excellent article. There’s just something very cathartic about writing, and as you point out, ANY writing is helpful even if it’s as simple as jotting thoughts down in a spiral notebook for your eyes only. I find that it centers and focuses me. My mind is always going a million miles per hour, and writing helps me make some order out of all the chaos up there! :-)

  5. DanaLarsen

    Great article, Martha. I agree that writing is not only therapeutic, but also a great tool for sharing in the caregiver community and helping to educate about what works/and doesn’t work for people. You have an amazing voice and knowledge of the topic and I know your expertise benefits many! Thank you for all you do!

  6. Sandra Ross

    I have written a book – “Going Gentle Into That Good Night: A Practical and Informative Guide For Fulfilling the Circle of Life For Our Loved Ones with Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease,” available on Amazon – and have a companion blog for caregivers at where I offer support, practical information, and encouragement to caregivers for loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

  7. Sandra Ross

    I wrote a book – “Going Gentle Into That Good Night: A Practical and Informative Guide For Fulfilling the Circle of Life For Our Loved Ones with Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease,” available on Amazon – and have a companion blog – link above: Going Gentle Into That Good Night – where I offer lessons I’ve learned and am still learning through information on the diseases, support, and encouragement for caregivers of our loved ones suffering with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

    I would also like to mention Kay Bransford’s blog, “Dealing With Dementia,” where Kay blogs about the journey she’s travelling with her parents (her dad just died, but her mother is still on the journey) and lessons she’s learning. It’s a must-have for caregivers.

  8. Jennifer Van Rooy

    After recently learning about how exactly stress so significantly impacts a caregivers health I was happy to read this blog. Writing is something anyone can do and the social connection that joining a writing group or starting a blog can bring also can help prevent with isolation that so commonly comes with being a caregiver. Thank you for posting.

  9. Everyday Carer

    I am a primary carer to my 24 year old daughter who lives with quadriplegia, due to a spinal cord injury, since a snowboarding accident in 2012.
    Spinal cord injury is challenging my daughter but acceptance, inner strength and grace are her greatest assets. Her smile, family and friends are my support and a sunny disposition always helps.
    My blog is real so do visit, share and follow.

    • Martha Stettinius

      Everyday Carer’s blog is Thank you Everyday Carer, for sharing this. I’m very sorry about your daughter, but am glad to see that you describer her not as a “quadriplegic” but as your daughter “who lives with quadriplegia.” That’s a great way to remind people that she is a person first, not a diagnosis or injury. I will check out your blog.

  10. Ella

    I am the primary caregiver for my older brother, 67, afflicted with Alzheimer’s. I took this role on in 2011, he was living 1000 miles away, coping with the disease all alone, unknown to me till a dreaded emergency phone call. I can’t forget my private consultation with the doctor and her telling me, “Fasten your seatbelt, you’ll be on a roller coaster ride.” I am now into this role 2 years and all her words, even though sad, have been true. Days and moments can go from good to bad quickly. I am always trying to heighten my knowledge on this terrible disease to aid him and myself in the caregiving role, sometimes in a stressful situation with him (let’s not forget he is the older brother) I forget what I’ve learned and end up feeling guilty about my error, as well as upset. The “new normal” as I’ve been told involves less conversation to avoid conflict, overlooking things, fibbing if needed, watching words and actions. Almost a tip-toe effect. It’s work, more mental than physical right now. I’m trying to bond in that small window of time as sister and brother and this disease is the enemy. I want to let you know I am so grateful for your articles, they are wonderful and have been a great support of knowledge for me. I enjoy the Caregiver’s Blog as well, reading others stories reminds me I’m not alone. Needless to say I do find writing therapeutic. God Bless All Caregivers!

    • Martha Stettinius

      Ella, thank you for sharing this. I know what you mean about the “tip-toe effect”: when my mother was living with the early stages of dementia, it often felt like I was walking on eggshells, trying to say the right thing. It did seem like more mental work than physical, at that time. For us, at least, it did get easier as her dementia progressed and she seemed to forget about the dementia and began to live right in the moment without the depression, anger, and paranoia of the earlier stages. Your brother is very fortunate to have you caring for him, but I hope you have enough support, too. If you haven’t visited your county’s office for the aging, I recommend contacting their caregiver counselors for individual counseling or for a caregiver support group. Also your local Alzheimer’s Association. You can find your Office for the Aging on this government website: All the best to you — Martha

  11. RuthAnn Hogue

    Please visit and follow my blog on what its like to be a #caregiver for my mom. It’s not what I expected.

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