Creative Processing: Making Meaning from our Experiences with Aging & Caregiving
Whether you are a primary caregiver walking along side an aging loved one with a chronic disease, or you are an aging adult processing a new phase of life, finding ways to express the life experiences you are having is extremely important and healthy. It could be writing your thoughts in a journal, it could be writing a private letter to a parent, it could be reading the writings of other people who are going through the same thing. What works for each person will be different, but the point is that you choose an outlet and make a commitment to process the emotions and experiences of the challenges you are going through.
Eldercare and aging can be demanding on the left side of our brains. It can feel like a long list of logistics from transitions, to finding appropriate care, to meetings, decisions, and doctor appointments. However, the family dynamics, emotions, and memories that accompany the logistics are powerful and need just as much attention. Often the right side of our brain, that can help us process the experiences and grief, is neglected. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about how to use creativity as a tool in your journey through eldercare and aging.
- April is national poetry month and there is a rich collection of published Alzheimer’s poetry from caregivers who have been in the midst of care for a loved one with the disease. Take a stab at writing your own poetry or read a published collection. One local anthology is called Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease, edited by Holly Hughes. Below is an example poem from the book
Losing Solomon by: Sean Nevin
We estimate a man by how much he remembers.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Things seem to take on a sudden shimmer
before vanishing: the polished black loafers
he wore yesterday, the reason for climbing
the stairs, even the names of his own children
are swallowed like spent stars against the dark
vault of memory. Today the toaster gives up
its silver purpose in his hands, becomes a radio,
an old Philco blaring a ball game from the 40s
with Jackie Robinson squaring up to the plate.
For now, it's simple; he thinks he is young again,
maybe nineteen, alone in a kitchen. He is staring
through his own reflection in the luster and hoping
against hope that Robinson will clear the bases
with a ball knocked so far over the stadium wall
it becomes a pigeon winging up into the brilliance.
And perhaps, in one last act of alchemy,
as Jackie sails around third, he will transform
everything, even the strange and forgotten face
glaring back from the chrome, into something
familiar, something Solomon could know as his own.
- Go for a nature walk or drive to take in and connect with the scenery around the Puget Sound.
- Enjoy an outing to a local museum and their community workshops and programs. Local museums are free to all on the first Thursday of each month. Local museums include, but aren't limited to: Seattle Art Museum: First Fridays are free to seniors, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Olympic Sculpture Park, Frye Museum, Bellevue Arts Museums, Tacoma Art Museum, Museum of Glass.
- Take a pottery class
- Scrapbook or write family memories. Some Template journals are available that give questions for you or a family member to answer.
- Enroll in a dance, yoga, or Zumba class
- Create a caregiver support group that does a creative activity together and discusses their experiences such as a book club, knitting group, writing cohort, etc.
- Visit http://facesofdementia.alzheimers.org.nz/ This is a website for posting written material and reflecting on experiences with dementia.
The health of an aging society, who is made up of growing numbers of aging adults and the family who are caring for them, will depend on our ability to process this experience, make meaning from it, and care for ourselves in the midst of it. Paula Span write on the New York Times blog, New Old Age, “If artists constitute an early warning system for social change, and I think they do, then it makes sense that filmmakers, novelists and musicians are creating work that looks at aging in general and dementia in particular.”
Published on March 29, 2013.