I’m a big fan of the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA). Their mission statement says they are dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging. Anyone who has engaged in even a cursory read of the Be Brave. Lose the Beige blog knows I’m a huge proponent of creative expression. Studies have demonstrated participation in the arts promotes physical and mental health, particularly among aging adults.
I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of the Creative Caregiving Initiative at the Arts and Wellness Symposium last fall in Orlando. The NCCA has developed an online caregiver toolkit. The toolkit contains artistic exercises for caregivers and their loved ones. Part of the focus is respite for the caregiver. This was the brain-child of Margie Pabst, of the Pabst Foundation for the Arts. She says, “The life of a caregiver is often filled with isolation, loneliness, stress and depression with patches of sunlight and hope. We saw the arts as a beacon of hope.”
While this initiative is targeted primarily to caregivers of family members with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders, I see its application for caregivers of all shapes and forms.
As Baby Boomer women, it feels like we have been caring for others our whole lives. We are truly the “tweener” generation, sandwiched between parenting our adult children and tending to aging parents. I know my mother cared for me and loved me but I’m not sure she hoisted my emotional traumas on to her shoulders in the same way we do with our children. Or perhaps, we just did not share them in the same way we have encouraged our children to share theirs. We looked them in the eyes all those years ago and said things like, “you can tell me anything. “. In many instances we would have gladly assumed their cares rather than witnessing their struggles.
My daughter recently underwent a very real trauma. While intellectually I know the experience was more difficult for her, I don’t know if it could have been that much greater considering the extent to which I felt her pain. Living in another state made access more difficult so there were many telephone calls, plane trips, Face-time sessions, and any other means of communication.
Creativity was an integral part of our care exchange. A shopping cart at Michaels Craft Store was loaded with clay, buttons, paint, and canvasses.
An entire day was devoted to creating. It really did not matter what, it was the process of creating. Hallmark holiday movies accompanied our sculpting and scrapbooking.
My family room assumed an art studio with bits of paper, Fimo clay, and glitter strewn about. So what! Cleaning only took minutes. The process and products will last in our hearts forever.