Friday, December 29, 2017

A Mindfulness Diary for the Alzheimer's Patient

I’ve become increasingly concerned about the cognitive decline I’ve been experiencing. Could it be a symptom of sleep apnea or another sleep disorder? Is it related to depression? Am I getting Alzheimer's?

I decided to start tracking episodes of “mindlessness.” I thought to use a weekly planner as a medical journal. I envisioned a planner in which the user / patient could select a symptom and rate its severity. But I saw only regular planners in bookstores. So I searched online for “journal diary for alzheimers patients.” Amazingly nothing related to a downloadable diary showed up. So I decided to create my own.

I found a really nice weekly planner template written in Excel by SmartSheet. I downloaded it, saved it with LibreOffice Calc and modified it in two distinct ways.

First I improved the date calculations. Now the starting date for each week is derived from a global starting date and the sheet name. Thus a new week can be added just by copying an existing sheet to a new sheet and changing the sheet name. The original template contained only five weeks of content; it was necessary to edit the start date on each new worksheet. So adding new weeks was tedious without redesigning the date calculation.

Second, I changed the layout of the page to a two-column format and gave each day the same amount of space. The TASKS and NOTES sections have been moved to the bottom, and TASKS was repurposed into two sections: CATEGORY and SEVERITY. The content in these new sections comes from a non-calendar worksheet, called SourceLists, to allow for easy changes to the lists that appear on all weeks.

Cells A1 through A10 on SourceLists contain the ten categories of symptoms. You can change the text in them and/or blank a few out. The severities are 0 (for no problem), 9 for highest functioning, and -9 for lowest functioning. Originally, I had 0 through 9 to represent symptoms from lowest to highest. But then I realized that I’d like to record good episodes, and a positive number seemed appropriate to represent this condition.  The idea is to jot down a Severity/Category code followed by a brief note.  For example, yesterday I had "-1A: I momentarily forgot that I was driving JC home after I got gas."  The "-1A" code is short for a very slight / brief memory impairment.  Having codes like this can make it easy to use a statistics program (such as R) to chart trends and to correlate with other sets of data.

I found the original list of symptoms in the Alzheimer’s Symptom Diary. I tailored the list to my needs and limited the number to ten to fit the available space.

Here's a link to the PDF document that I'm currently using.  Let me know if you're interested in seeing the spreadsheet source document.  I'm not publishing it out of deference to SmartSheet.  Someone put a lot of effort into designing that template, and I don't wish to subvert their business model by publishing a derivative work.

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