Thursday, April 11, 2019

Notes for Caregivers #10 - Make Time For The Things That Give You Inner Satisfaction

"Wellbeing" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper

Often caregivers become so caught up in our roll of taking care of our loved ones, that we forget to look after our own wellbeing. The truth is we are part of a team, a family, or a community, and this team or community needs all its members to have as much wellbeing as possible in order to function well. So in an effort to create as much personal wellbeing  as possible, I reviewed some work I did around resilience. I believe posting some of these resilience strategies here may be helpful for all of us in the caregiver roll.

Make time for things that give you inner satisfaction.  What gives you inner satisfaction and joy, not so much tangible consumables or extrinsic rewards, but more things that give you intrinsic rewards?  Can you create something based on what you find?  Pay attention to inner dialogue as you work. When you find you are receiving positive inner feedback, you know you are on the right track.

In addition, here are some non art prompts to try for increased wellbeing:

1. Do one secret good thing for someone else daily, anonymously, not hoping for anything in return. (It could be a simple as smiling or opening a door or paying for someone's coffee)
2. Write down your goals and intentions for the next month as if they are already accomplished. "I am delighted that I was able to create more time for [fill in the blank] this month.
3. Make note of any difficulties that you would like to be more resilient around, as if they are in the past tense, a memory. "I am so glad that I really have peace of mind around...[fill in the blank]"
4. Just "stop and be" daily. (You can do this after doing your one secret good thing and to see how you are feeling)
5. Find something new each day to support your body/mind.

I hope this is helpful.  All comments are welcome.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Notes for Caregivers #9 - On keeping a candle in the window, and creating happiness in dark times.

"Noble and Good" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper
For all caregivers in dark times, have a look at this wonderful video. Dr Maria Sirois talks about how to find happiness in our lives, even in dark times. She combines the latest research with personal stories and how we can put this into practice.  She also talks a bit about her new book, "Praise for A Short Course in Happiness After Loss (and Other Dark, Difficult Times)." Keep a candle in the window and the kettle on the stove.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Notes for Caregivers #8 - A sweet video for Caregivers

"Sustainable Joy" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper

On the Stories for Caregivers Facebook page, I found a wonderful, truth filled animation on finding your way in the adventure of care giving.  Often the caregiver feels quite isolated by the seriousness of the task. Things that used to matter a great deal now seem less important. This short video may just reframe your story, it may give you a new way to view your situation.

The video tells the story of a brave raccoon's journey to caregiving for an orphaned eagle. We learn about the transformative nature of caregiving, its disorientation and its rewards, from the racoon's journey.

Please share with other caregivers. "Connection and support are what keeps caregivers strong."

Thursday, December 13, 2018

#'s 193 - 293 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Give your creativity a burst.

"Art Warrior" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
From a March 2002 Issue of The Studio Zine from Teesha Moore.

1. Carve a stamp. Use a white eraser and a linoleum cutter.
2. Make a puppet. Use a paper towel tube, attach an old doll head to the top and drape fabric around neck. Add stuff.
3. Dig out your sewing machine and make something out of your old clothes destined for the thrift store.
4. Take a trip into the big city. Look for ideas.
5. Go cruise the aisles of your craft store. You never know what you might see that you can turn into something cool.
6. Go spend a couple of hours at a bookstore. Look in sections that you have never looked in before.
7. Take another look at your local community college list of evening classes. Sign up for something weird.
8. Cook a gourmet meal for your friends.
9. Go for a walk.
10. Look through your art supplies. Use something that hasn't yet been used.
11. Arm yourself with a canvas, brush and a few acrylics. Paint a face using the whole canvas and lots of colors.
12. Plan an imaginary dream trip to someplace exotic.
13. Make a travel journal about your imaginary trip.
14. Read a fiction book.
15. Go to the museum with your journal and sketch something.
16. Go hang out in a coffee shop with your journal. Meet someone new.
17. Buy a new pen. Doodle with it.
18. Get out your alphabet rubber stamp set and stamp out an entire page of text in your journal.
19. Pick a color and make something using only that color.
21. Make some wings out of wire. Glue a thin paper over the wire frame.
22. Make an artist book about your day, your family, your dog, your dreams, your town, your best friend, etc.
23. Go see a play or opera or a concert.
24. Decoupage a lunch pail. Cover it with a high gloss varnish like Golden's High gloss medium.
25. Find a nice, clean purse at a thrift store. Add collage, beads, trims, etc.
26. Plan a tea party.
27. Make a sheet of artist stamps. Commemorate something common or seemingly insignificant.
28. Look through your collection of books. Pull out ones you haven't looked through for a while. Re-visit your "old friends."
29. Find an object around your house. Embellish it. Use fabric, beads, charms, collage, rubber stamps, found objects.
30. Go outside and find a bag of found objects. You might want to do this in the city. Now make something using your items.
31. Go listen to new music at your music store. Find an exciting new cd and buy it.
32. Design a fantastical costume in your journal with a pencil. Add little scraps of fabric to show what you have in mind.
33. Make color copies of your favorite things. Frame them and fill a wall.
34. Find a cheap, thrift store chandelier, paint it, and add strings of beads and dangles. Hang it even if it doesn't work.
35. Find an old window pane with glass still in it. Collage onto the back side of the glass. Hang it.
36. Make some tiny pillows. Embellish with beads and fringe. Put a bowl of them out. Add lavender to the stuffing.
37. Make a basket out of wire with curlicues. Fill it with rolled-up white washcloths and put next to your sink.
38. Plan out a tiny garden. Get started working the soil. Make little markers to add charm.
39. Start a collaborate project with a groups of friends.
40. Make a list of things that inspire you.
41. Plan a fun party fro your kids just for the fun of it. Go through with it.
42. Get a bulletin board and decorate it with all sorts of fun stuff that makes you happy.
43. Take a roll of pictures of odd things. Print them at a one-hour lab and then use them in your collage.
44. Gold leaf something. It can be as simple as some old dried leaves.
45. Re-arrange your furniture.
46. Make some paper dolls. Make copies and give to your friends.
47. Take a stained glass class to learn how to cut glass and solder pieces together. Put found text between two pieces of glass.
48. Take a dance class. Learn belly dancing.
49. Make a cloth art doll. No rules. Just make something...anything.
50. Melt beeswax. Dip things in it, like fabric or paper. Use your dipped pieces in something.
51. Make a shrine using up a bunch of art stuff you don't want anymore.
52. Take a free form ceramics class. Make a funky teapot.
53. Make giant outdoor figures using pieces of wood from old barns, metal scraps, thrift store finds, and paint.
54. Go for an hour drive out in the country. Driving works the right side of your brain and gets you thinking creatively.
55. Find a piece of unfinished wood furniture. Stamp on it using Colorbox black. Color in with colored pencil. Spray seal it.
56. Make something that has the feel of an old circus, or old Paris flea market, or eastern India, or Imperial China.
57. Try something that you have been wanting to try for a long time. Just do it.
58. Make an articulated figure. Use something for the body and limbs and join the parts together somehow. Make large or small.
59. Organize your desk. Clean it off, so you will actually feel like using it.
60. Make a special desk just for journaling at. Put in a corner and have all your supplies on it.
61. Go away for the weekend. Get some fresh air and a change of pace.
62. Go out to dinner with a friend and brainstorm ideas.
63. Go through old artwork, make copies of the stuff you like and play around with it. Adding more to it.
64. Try painting with water colors. Just make sheets of color. Later collage on these.
65. Take an old thrift store chair and paint it with lots of colors. Use paint pens to add words.
66. Find some interesting kids books in yard sales. Cut these up and use in your journal.
67. Play with papier-mâché. Make forms out of chicken wire.
68. Make a bunch of those "handmade" greeting cards that you see in high end gift shops for 10.00 a piece. Create a stash to send out.
69. Collage onto a piece of 1/4" wood. String a ribbon through the top, tie in a bow and hang.
70. Using lacquer thinner (found in auto store), transfer xerox's onto fabric, journal pages, etc. Wet back of copy face down on fabric. Rub with the back of a spoon. Lift paper.
71. Glue a box to the back of an old frame. Fill with a mini theater for a shadow box effect.
72. Make yourself some little calling cards. Put several on a sheet and copy onto card stock.
73. Make a bunch of tiny little books. Use as many different materials as you can think of.
74. Look in the yellow pages under the categories you like. You will be surprised to learn of places you didn't know about.
75. Go through your old photo albums. Use your family photos in fun collages. Make copies first.
76. Spend a day at the library. Bring your journal. Sketch things you find.
77. Plan a weekend of art for 3 of your friends. Create non-stop. Collaborate.
78. Take a piece of art that you are tired of and incorporate it into something new.
79. Go through all your stamp pads, pens, tubes of paint, etc. and throw out anything dried up.
80. Read through a quote book. Stencil a quote on your wall. Write some in your journal.
81. Mount up thos unmounted rubber stamps you bought a long time ago.
82. Buy some crackle glaze. Try it out. Rub brown paint into the cracks.
83. Go on a hunt for old costume jewelry. Make something out of it.
84. Buy a small-drawer organizer from a home improvement store. Organize your beads and small found objects.
85. Make a weather vane using an old bicycle wheel and attach old tea cups around the edge to catch the wind. Install outside.
86. Paint your address in huge numbers on your house. Make it funky. Do not do this if you live in one of those condominiums. (Ha)
87. Make a "bead" curtain using a copy of a face that is perfectly round (about 2"). Print face on front and back, laminate a bunch of them, punch holes in the top and bottom and attach to each other with jump rings.
88. Gather twigs outside and make something with them using twine. A picture frame, basket, sculptural piece, etc.
89. Look back through all your old issues of "The Studio".
90. Make your own zine. Everyone seems to be doing it these days.
91. Make your own game. Fashion it after a commercial one but make your own game board and pieces.
92. Paint faces onto fabric, make into pillows and hang from your ceiling with fishing line. These appear as if they are floating.
93. Explore your dollar store for cheap ceramics to use in your next mosaic.
94. Re-cover your dining room seat cushions with something wild (pink and black zebra stripe). This looks great with stuffy old classic designs.
95. Take a class at a bead store. Learning how to make jewelry provides invaluable techniques for lots of things.
96. Make a mobile using black foam core pieces, collage, paint along the edges, attach to each other using string. Add beads.
97. Go buy some inexpensive colorful goblets and arrange all your brushes, pens, pencils, scissors, and rulers in them.
98. Go into your Chinatown and see what you can find.
99. Cover something with a ton of silk roses and a hot glue gun. A lamp shade, pillow, around the edge of a mirror, etc.
100. Go buy yourself some fine chocolates and champagne. Draw a hot bath, light candles, add bubbles, use homemade soap. Lean head back with mouth full of chocolate and dream. (Oh my. Teesha wrote that she really needed tip #100 after thinking up the previous 99, but I think it sounds kind of good at any time.)

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #7 - Did you know...?

"Not Alone" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
There is an excellent video from the University of California TV, "It Takes a Village: Caring for the Caregiver," in which Dr. Michael Rabow not only explored the burdens experienced by caregivers, but had many resources and suggestions to make navigating this difficult journey a little easier.

Did you know that a 25% of the US population is working as family caregivers? (I had no idea) And the odd thing is almost each one of these 44 million individuals feels quite alone on this care giving journey, usually struggling to re-invent the care giving wheel.  (How is that possible, 44 million people feeling isolated.) Did you know that most of these care givers feel "on duty" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?  About half of the caregivers struggle with depression, at much higher levels than the patients. About a third suffer from PTSD after a patient's stay in ICU. Dr. Rabow feels that it is much easier to be the patient with the horrible diagnosis, than it is to be the caregiver.  As an example he pointed out that in the half hour he spends with the patient, the focus is entirely on how the patient is doing and what can be done to make the patient more comfortable. At the very end of the appointment he may turn to the caregiver and ask “why didn't you do such and such?”  (Hardly what you might call caring for the caregiver.)

Did you know that caregivers will put the needs of the patient ahead of their own needs, often ignoring their own deteriorating health, caused by the intense stress of the job. It has been show to lead to declining immune function, increased inflammation, heart issues, stroke, and even cancer (Bengt Zöller, 2012). (Yikes) And of course the patient and the caregiver both depend on the good health and resilience of the caregiver.

Thankfully, Dr. Rabow pointed out that there are proven interventions that are of help for the caregiver, like day care, home care, and palliative care. He suggests caregivers need to build daily respite into their lives, support groups, social workers, psychologists, and caregiver education (so the wheel doesn't have to be continually reinvented).

His resource list is excellent.
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
AARP's Care Guide to Caring for those with Dementia
Caregiver Action Network
Care Giving Cafe
Family Care Giver Alliance
National Alliance of Caregiving
NIH Caregiving Resources

And here are his 10 Tips for Caregivers:
1. Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone. (Remember 44 million in the US alone)
2. Take care of your health so you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help.
4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors. (Hmmm, interesting idea)
5. Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
6. Watch out for signs of depression and don't hesitate to get professional help when you need it.
7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one. (Hmmm, another interesting idea!)
8. Organize medical information so it's up to date and easy to find.
9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

Thank you Dr. Michael Rabow.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #6 - Coping With Caregiver Depression and Grief

"Small Joys" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

I was scrolling through YouTube and found this very clear video for caregivers on coping with depression and grief. It's an easy to watch, helpful video of a difficult topic.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Notes for Caregivers #5 - Caregiving Essentials

"A Story Within" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I've started an educational endeavor with McMaster University. They are offering a free online course in Caregiving Essentials, teaching us to navigate with confidence issues like becoming a caregiver (including legal and financial information), how to deal with the health care system and get the supports we need, how to take care of ourselves so we can care for someone else and finally we will have access to health and medical information.

Our first task is to own the caregiver role in part by identifying our strengths. We can sometimes feel like we have been handed a difficult and thankless job. Does it take a special kind of person to take on this role? I tend to doubt that but clearly if we can harness our strengths we can reap the rewards that come with caregiving. I am learning that successful caregivers display many of these positive traits: patience, resilience, confidence and compassion. We need to keep ourselves from falling into a pit of despair by regularly identifying our strengths and drawing on them as much as we can while we are "giving care."

The course suggests we ask ourselves these questions to help us identify our strengths:

1. What gives you energy? Activities that draw on your strengths typically make you feel more energized (whereas activities that take you out of your comfort zone might make you feel drained).
I think being an art therapist has been great training for this life. Creative work and problem solving along with serious listening are things that make me feel more energized, skills that worked well in art therapy and now as a caregiver.

2. What are your best character traits? Think back to job reviews, compliments and your own self-reflections. What are you most proud of?
Same as above, although additionally I have been told I am patient. Not sure, but I think that one could use a bit of development.

3. What strengths do you bring to the table when faced with challenges or adversity? How do you overcome challenges?
As I learned from Kelly McGonigal I can use compassion and altruism to overcome challenges and adversity.

4. Now that you have a list of your strengths, how will you leverage them?
I suspect reminding myself to employ my strengths daily would be a very good start.