Family Caregiver Council – A trusted resource for family caregivers.
The Family Caregiver Council was born from a desire to look at these issues in a collaborative, meaningful way, providing support and resources so caregivers won’t become overwhelmed. Comprised of leaders from 13 national family caregiver organizations and other experts, we’ve combined our resources to support family caregivers more effectively than any of us can do alone.
You’re a harried and exhausted family caregiver. You want people to be supportive and comforting. But well-intentioned friends, coworkers and family can say things that make you feel worse—or plain angry.
Trust me. During the course of taking care of two parents and one mother-in-law, commuting every weekend to see at least one of them, I was told a heap of unhelpful remarks. Let’s start with, “You’re lucky you have a mother!” or “At least your father-in-law doesn’t live with you!” or maybe said differently, but with the message of, “How hard can it be, your mother is able to hire help?”
I’ve wanted to reply, “You have no clue,” or better yet, “you didn’t just say that, did you?” Whether your parents or in-laws live with you, nearby, or across the country, caregiving is hard and it’s emotional.
To have someone say something insensitive (that they obviously don’t realize is), can be a much bigger deal if you’re exhausted, stressed or have mixed feelings about your role.
My colleague Barry Jacobs, a clinical psychologist and writer, moved his mother up from Florida to be near his home in Pennsylvania. He had a conflict-ridden relationship with her. “I used to hate it when people told me that I was a hero for taking care of my mother,” he told me. “I had so many negative feelings about being her caregiver that their praise just increased my guilt about feeling ambivalently.”
For me, the “hero” comment is in the same family as “I could never do what you’re doing!” Jacobs is also irked by the phrase, “God never gives you more than you can carry.” He thinks that even if he believed that, “hearing it made me feel that my particular concerns were being trivialized.”
But his all-time favorite was, “Why don’t you take some time for yourself?” “I always wanted to respond, ‘what a great idea! I never thought of that before!’” That differs from caringly asking, “Do you have any time for yourself?”
I asked Jacobs’ wife, psychologist Julie Mayer, co-author with him of Meditations for Caregivers, what she found least helpful her caregiving stint with her mother-in-law. “People told me that I’m an angel who will be rewarded for my good deeds,” she recalls. “I know they meant well, but it felt like a huge exaggeration that left me denying it to the person who had complimented me.”
“I’d end up seeming to minimize my efforts which wasn’t accurate either,” she went on to complain. “I also felt misunderstood because although I wanted to do the caregiving, I felt ambivalent and resentful at times. I was not an angel. And I had no idea about what reward I was supposed to receive! The ‘angel’ comment felt oddly dismissive although I’m certain that it came from a place of caring.”
What to Say Instead
In her new book Option B, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg writes that when her husband died suddenly at a young age, it helped far more when someone told her they were in it [the sad journey] with her or that “we are going to get through this together” rather than “You will get through this.”
Rather than “let me know if there’s anything I can do,” be specific. How about, “do you want me to come visit your mother and keep you company?” or
“I’d like to drop off a meal this week, what night is best for you?” You could also say, “I’m going to the grocery store today. What I can pick up for you?”
Here are other phrases that experts suggest :
“What you are doing is so hard.”
“How is your mother-in-law [or father] doing?”
“How are you doing?” Asking open-ended questions allows a caregiver to discuss her feelings, or not to, if they don’t want to. It also opens the door for future conversation.
Here’s my advice: Unless you are asked, don’t give any. Instead, give a gift certificate for a massage or facial and offer to stay with their parent while they do. If you are on the receiving end, chalk it up to caring that misfired. Rather than stew, remember what they said and save it for a dumb and dumber contest! You’ll probably win.
A new AARP study shows that only 46 percent of family caregivers ask for, or look for, help. That means there are a lot of haggard and harried family members who are doing the care themselves. And, no surprise here—it’s often one adult child (typically a daughter and/or child who lives closest) who does more than her fair share—sometimes way more.
Why is asking for help so hard? Do family caregivers not want it, or are they just not doing anything to get it?
We know that one in charge often neglects their own health and needs. We also know that they may be performing complex medical tasks, thanks to increasingly brief hospital stays.
What Are They Thinking?
Over the years, caregivers have given me many reasons for going it alone. Here are the top ten:
If I request help, my siblings will view me as selfish and uncommitted
A control issue: No one can do as good a job or get it “right”
My parent refuses help, guilt trips me or insists that I do everything
I guilt trip myself. I’ll feel bad if I don’t do it all. The adult child may be trying to make up for the past, or improve it.
No one else has stepped up. (Hmm, have you asked?)
Hiring help is too expensive. It may be the case, but might your Mom and siblings just not want to part with their money?
My siblings are jockeying for power or reverting to old family dynamics—The Favorite, The Chosen, The Most Reliable, The Caver and Yes “Man” or The Selfless One
I don’t know how or where to get help—or how to ask for it
I don’t trust outside help (“strangers”). How do I know what they’re doing when I’m not there?
Quick Strategies for Getting Help
Change your mindset. Realize that asking for help is smart, not selfish. You know the expression “Many hands make light work”? It was coined by a 16th British playwright. And, 500 or so years later, it’s still true.
Test the waters. Ask for something little. Can your brother take Mom on an errand, to an appointment, out to lunch, or stay with her while you duck out?
Offer choices. Provide options so sibs can decide what they can do. Consider each family member’s strengths. If a sister is organized, can she manage care coordination?
Could another sibling pay Dad’s bills online or take charge of house repairs? How about ferrying Mom to adult day care or arranging for her to get there?
Be inclusive. They may want to help but are given go-away vibes. Keep family members informed and able to access health information. Is it easier through an app (i.e. CaringBridge or CareZone), email or conference call?
Think outside the family box. Can a nearby niece be on the care team or at least a backup in an emergency? How about a friend or neighbor? An Aging Life Care Professional (aka geriatric care manager) can put all the moving parts together and knows community resources.
If Mom lives at home, there may be a “village” in her area. It’s a members’ neighborhood organization that often provide transportation, vetted service providers referrals (home repair, a dog walker) and hold social get-togethers and events (movie, traveling, a yoga class).
Your company may provide eldercare help to employees. They may range from flextime to elder care resource and referral services, Dependent Care Assistance Plans, access to senior care advisors and financial and legal experts
Have your list before there’s a crisis. You will have many more options and it will be right there!
It’s possible that you or your family member doesn’t want help. Others need to respect those wishes. But at least you’ll know the next step if circumstances or attitudes change. Caregiving is not a one man—or woman–job!
As a long-distance caregiver to my father, mother and mother-in-law, I’ve been a veritable emotion machine. I’ve felt frustration, isolation, exhaustion, impatience, anxiety, stress, anger, self-doubt, sadness, and guilt. Granted, I’ve also experienced devotion, intimacy, and purpose.
These potent emotions aren’t reserved for long distance caregivers. I’m sure my brother, who was the in-town adult child, had similar feelings. I’m also sure he wished we could switch places—he be the one to travel to see Mom, and I be the local one.
I was relieved I wasn’t. I was spared the scutwork, the in-the-trenches caregiving, chauffeuring, doctoring, and other day-to-day tasks. I was as much of a hands-on caregiver as I could be. My car had a 200-mile workout every other weekend traveling between states. There was plenty to coordinate and orchestrate that allowed my angst level to be elevated. I still fretted: was anything going on with Dad, Mom or my mother-in-law that I wouldn’t have missed had I been there? Was I doing enough? Could I do a good job from afar?
Many sons and daughters of aging parents, especially only children, wish they had siblings to share the caregiving load. But that load isn’t always (usually) evenly split and everyone doesn’t play so well in the sandbox.
Just as the “Mommy Wars” had stay at home moms and working moms judging each other, there were times I felt like I was waging the “Sibling War”: long distance caregiver vs. the home-base child. My friends tell me the same. The contest seems to be about who is doing more and who isn’t pulling his or her own weight. That can escalate into who cares more for Mom and who is the better and more giving child.
Even in the closest of families, who does what and who lives where can cause tremendous friction and even fall-out. When you care from afar, geography creates other kinds of stress.
As long distance caregivers, we may feel that we’re in the hot seat, being judged for our devotion; it can make us defensive. Of course, you can have a sibling who doesn’t pitch in regularly who lives in town. Living nearby doesn’t necessarily mean more involvement. And today, caring from afar can give you a real sense of what’s going on via technology like sensors, computers and smartphones that can connect you to what’s happening in the home of the person being cared for.
For me, one of the hardest parts of being a long-distance caregiver was feeling torn—when I was with my father, mother and mother-in-law, I wasn’t with my own family, and when I was with my own family, I was not with them. I still had a husband and child at home, in another state, and weekly work deadlines.
When there was an emergency, I hightailed it to be with them. There is no long distance for those situations.
My 14 years as a long-distance caregiver has given me some insight. Here are my pearls of wisdom:
1. Don’t cede the wheel. Even though you’re not right there does not mean you get to check out. Take advantage of technology, care coordination programs on the web and Facetime. If your parent needs help with the billing, you can do it online, as well as order groceries or other items via the web.
2. Not right there? Offer to research housing options, financial advisors or adult day programs for siblings who have more caregiving responsibilities. Make calls and do web legwork for services in your parents’ community or hire an aging life care specialist (formerly known as a geriatric care manager) who knows the resources in their area. There is a comprehensive directory with curated resources – right on this site.
Ask them what they need most. Financial help? A break so they can get away or even sleep? If you haven’t heard of respite care, now’s the time to bone up.
Five years from now, convincing Mom that aging in place technology is beneficial will be a snap. Many of her friends will be using it and it will be an accepted, and expected, part of living independently.
But we’re not there yet. The concept is new enough that your parents may be less than wild about the idea (as in, “No way!”) That means you need to understand their thinking before making your case for technology.
Let’s face it, getting older can feel like a series of losses: friends may move or pass away, you may be less physically or cognitively vital, or unable to do something the way you used to.
Sure, technology can keep you in control and independent as long as possible, but your parents are right, too: needing technology is confirmation that something has changed. You need to acknowledge their feelings and then give them a good reason to use it.
They may be thinking:
I will lose control of my life and my independence
Technology is an invasion of my privacy and an imposition on my lifestyle
I don’t need it—it’s for old and sick people–such overkill!
It will be a constant reminder that I’m old and can’t take care of myself
My kids are treating me like a baby—I’m the PARENT!
It costs too much
Technology will take the place of my family. They won’t call or visit me as much if they know that I’m okay
It will be too complicated to use. I don’t understand how it works.
Let’s go back to some of these concerns:
1. THEM: I will lose control of my life and my independence. These gadgets are a sign of weakness.
YOU: In fact, technology allows you to stay in control and maintain your independence. You will have more freedom. Without it, you might need a different living arrangement (moving in with a child, moving to long-term care—tech is not exactly their “Get Out of Jail” card, but you get it). You’re in charge. You push the button when you need to. And as for a sign of weakness? Hardly! You’re being responsible and taking action before there’s an issue
2. THEM: It’s an imposition and invasion of my privacy.
YOU: It’s unobtrusive. No one is filming you or spying on your conversations. It’s just making sure you stay healthy and if there’s a problem—you’re driving and you’re lost, or you have a flat tire, or you’re out on the golf course and don’t feel well, or there’s a fire or burglary, or you trip and fall—you will get help immediately. No lying on the floor alone waiting to be rescued. We’re talking safety. It will give you peace of mind, as well as us, your children.
3. THEM: If my family knows I’m okay, they’ll call and visit less.
YOU: Au contraire! If we know you’re okay, we can focus on topics other than your health or checking up on you. It will be so much more pleasant for both of us—you as the parent, we as the kids. The technology is for when you aren’t with them only.
THEM: Just one more expense I don’t need.
YOU: If it’s coming out of your pocket, then the subject is moot. If not, let them know it’s far cheaper than in-home professional help.
THEM: It’s too hard and too much of a hassle to figure out technology.
YOU: You’re right, some technology is complicated, but not the new tech. Just press a button and you’re off to the races!
Five more tips for that technology talk:
Blame yourself! Tell them you want them to use the technology so you and their grandkids won’t worry about them and know they are safe.
No threats; they’re counterproductive and belittling.
Like any other serious conversation, pick a time when there are few distractions, you’re not rushed, and Mom or Dad is least tired (after breakfast?).
Listen to what they have to say and be understanding. If it gets contentious, drop the tech topic and bring it up another time. It’s likely to be an ongoing talk rather than a one-time conversation.
Consider this: Dad may feel relieved that you’re suggesting aging in place tech, but not admit it to you.
Of course, there’s the chance he’ll say, “Great idea, thanks so much for suggesting it.” Just don’t count on it!
Have you had the tech talk with your parents? How did it go? If not, what are your reservations about bringing it up? Anything we forgot? We definitely want to hear from you!
Intergenerational. Expect to hear this word a lot as the concept is gaining fans of all ages. Participating in activities with different generations can benefit older adults—as in your parents. And,as important, there’s something in them for you, too.
Programs range from every day contact between generations–having a day care center on the same floor as a nursing home (The Intergenerational Learning Center at Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle), a senior center that shares space with a high school (Swampscott High School in Swampscott, MA), or living together in cohousing, for instance—to not so daily encounters. That might be older adults and kids getting together once a week to tutor, make art, or with no agenda except to have fun and build relationships.
More than anything else, mixing non-related (and of course, related!) seniors and children can give meaning and a sense of purpose to both sides.
Benefits of Intergenerational Interaction
Researchers, academics, physicians and others working in the field of gerontology agree that participating in an activity that brings meaning– intergenerational opportunities certainly fit the bill–is good for your physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Need evidence?
A Rush University Medical Center study showed a 30 percent lower rate of cognitive decline for those who felt a sense of purpose than those who didn’t.
Experience Corps, an AARP program in 21 states where older adults volunteer to teach kids in high-need elementary schools to read, found those volunteers had improved mental and physical health, diabetes needed less medication, and arthritis sufferers had less pain.
I asked Donna Butts, executive director of the nonprofit Generations United, the go-to national organization for intergenerational initiatives, to weigh in. Here’s her take: “Children learn soft skills and patience and benefit from the wisdom of older adults. Older adults report feeling more optimistic and take better care of themselves as well as being more physically and mentally alert.” But this is Butt’s best line: “Connecting with another generation is like filling a prescription for purpose.”
I have seen it! I have listened to an intergenerational chorus in New York made up of family caregivers (spouses, adult children and parents) and their cognitively impaired family members. (That chorus is electrifying and performs concerts for the public.) I have heard a former foster care child living in a western Massachusetts community with loving and supportive older adults call one “Grandma” because she feels close to her. It’s a relative term; no blood ties needed!
Programs Not Just for Grandma
Boomers and other adult children: while I’m writing about intergenerational opportunities for your parents, the benefits apply to you, too. Hot off the press: encore.org just launched a Generation To Generation initiative. It is a call-to-action campaign asking one million adults age 50+ to volunteer to help needy kids succeed. You sign up and the organization will connect you with opportunities, whether it is mentoring, tutoring or something else. Among those participating are Senior Corps and Oasis, which has the largest intergenerational program in the U.S.
There are hundreds of cool intergenerational programs around the country. To find an opportunity near you or your parent or get a sense of offerings, check out Generations United.
One thing is certain: being with people like you—same age, same type, same background–can be boring and even stultifying. Meeting others who are different and doing for others, or watching your parent be the recipient of such a program, is a great holiday gift for all.
Some things are inevitable: death, taxes and sometimes, even for the luckiest of us, other “bad stuff.” When you’re a family caregiver, you may not be able to anticipate what that bad stuff is. Maybe it’s an unexpected accident or illness of a loved one—or even you, the caregiver–a decline in cognitive or physical function, incompetent or unreliable home health aides, work constraints, The Parentless Boss From Hell, or someone else in the family who has immediate needs (your spouse, your child, your grandkid, an in-law, or your other parent, too, for instance).
Of course, you can’t precisely plan for things you don’t know will happen (unless you’re a seer). You can have knowledge, though–a sense of where to go, or whom to contact—so that you can get the information that you need.
In the context of caregiving, what do you need to know? How do you plan for the unplanned?
Resources: There’s a great list from national, state and local organizations to agencies to best websites on this site
Your support system: relatives, professionals and friends who can help, or steer you to help. Identify them now.
Your attitude must be realistic. Someone you love just may need help some day. (Get-real statistics: 43.million caregivers provide care for someone age 50+, while 14.9 million care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.) Who is going to provide that help? Have you discussed this with siblings?
Will your parents be able to stay where they are as they age? Does their house have steep steps and narrow doorways, which will make navigating difficult, or do they live in an apartment that has no elevator? Do they live near any of their children? Should they, and you, be thinking about making modifications so they can age in place, and if so, is there technology to consider? Or, does it make more sense to move, and then, what are your options? Talk to friends whose parents have “done” old age, to your local Council on Aging or senior center to find out what programs are in your community, including transportation services.
Do your parents have the right documents (advance care directive, power of attorney, will) and information compiled (contact information for health care, financial, insurance professionals, credit card companies, Social Security as well as banking, utilities and other house-related providers and accounts)? If so, where are they stored? Do you or another family member have access to them? Nothing like scrambling for this critical material in a crisis!
Think that you’ll deal with these things when something happens? Sure you can, but it will limit your choices, could be more expensive if you don’t have time to comparative shop, and will unquestionably ramp up your stress.
Perhaps he was never a caregiver, but Ben Franklin couldn’t have said it better: “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Have you made plans for the future? If so, what have you done? If not, why not?
If you had a choice between staying in your own home, in familiar surroundings, or moving when you get older, my guess is that you’d opt to stay. According to studies, most people are with you.
It may seem like an obvious decision, but there are many factors to consider. If you are healthy, active and live in a community that makes day-to-day living easy, staying at home can beat other options, including long-term care—as in independent or assisted living or a nursing home. (However, the range of offerings provided by these facilities – help if you need it, activities, companionship –can also be attractive.)
But what if your beloved house has steep steps, narrow doorways (where would a future walker go?), no first floor bedroom or full bathroom, hard-to-navigate bathtubs and showers, too high kitchen counters and cabinets, and safety hazards galore?
Perhaps you could make slight changes, retrofit the space, radically renovate or build an addition so it’s better suited for the older you. There are numerous online resources to learn what you need to do to make your place safe, accessible and easier to navigate. Check out the AARP HomeFitGuide, Aging in Place and the National Aging in Place Council. (Tip: Before you do an upgrade, ask a realtor how it will affect resale value.)
You might prefer to move to an apartment or condo with an elevator, for example, but live in the same community where you have rich friendships and history.
Let’s do some more imagining: your current house has everything to make it work for all stages of life. But, it’s not near public transportation or amenities like restaurants, stores, movies or medical offices. Will you still want to shop and cook regularly and do all the home maintenance? You drive now, but what if you give it up down the road? You may be isolated in your leafy cul-de-sac or rural refuge.
When evaluating whether to stay or go, where you live when you’re older is not just about the suitability of your house. It’s also about living in a community where you feel valued and connected. It’s about having opportunities to meaningfully engage with others and being able to get what you need as your needs change.
As one geriatrician recently told me, “You can have the most wonderful house in the country with the most wonderful view that you thought was perfect for growing older. But, if you can no longer drive and there are no community resources to help you, that wonderful house can be impractical and unrealistic.”
So yes, having to leave a house you don’t want to leave is difficult. But think of the bigger picture –now!
November is officially Family Caregiver Month. And “Caregiving Around the Clock” is the official theme chosen by the non-profit Caregiver Action Network.
Even though I helped care for three parents—my father, and then simultaneously, my mother and mother-in-law, I lived in the different world of long distance caregiving.
Still, I can tell you that when I’d drive to see my mother and mother-in-law in two different states on the same day, I would return to my own home emotionally and physically depleted. And that was just once a week.
I can’t imagine being on duty ‘round the clock. Not that some caregivers will let me forget that. I wrote a first-person piece for the AARP Bulletin on managing caregiver emotions. A couple of readers were far from impressed. One wrote, “Sally Abrahms can take off her crown now.” Another told me that I was “not a caregiver, but a visitor.” They called me clueless about what real caregiving is and lashed out at me for saying that my parent trips exhausted me.
Their remarks brought to light the long distance vs. live- in family caregiver divide. My point in writing the piece was not to have a who’s-got-it-worse contest—the 24/7 side is clearly the “winner”—but to share my feelings on one type of caregiving. But let’s not talk about me!
Let’s acknowledge the challenges for both kinds of caregivers. (Yes, I will cover those in the trenches ‘round the clock.)
Top challenges for long-distance caregivers
You may not really know what’s going on (if Dad is safe, mobile and eating properly) and when to visit
You may not know the resources in their area
It is hard to arrange care from afar, especially when there’s a sibling who lives closer who won’t/can’t take the lead
Being a live-in family caregiver is a whole different beast. You’re like an octopus with eight tentacles going in different directions: you may have your own family and those relationships to manage and nurture; a parent’s health issues that require you to perform complicated medical tasks more suited to an RN; time for yourself (remember that?); master coordinator of transportation, activities, doctor appointments; your swirling emotions that may include guilt, resentment, fear, and burnout; your professional life, a boss and colleagues; your precious sleep; sibling dynamics; and other challenges I may be missing.
In a word, it’s hard. During this special National Caregivers Month, let’s acknowledge the dedication, selflessness and efforts of ‘round the clock caregivers. And let’s steer them to the best resources, programs, services, referrals, advice and information to lighten their load.
Let me dispel the notion that respite care — giving a family caregiver a breather by letting someone else (a professional, family member or friend) temporarily take care of your loved one—is a luxury.
Not even sort of. There’s a reason the theme for National Caregiving Month is respite care. It is a key concept. For starters, it gives you, the caregiver, a chance to recharge so that you stay sane and don’t burnout (maybe just sizzle). And, as wonderful as you may be, a new face and experience can be a great change for your loved one.
Think of it this way: it’s no different than anyone who does the same-old, whatever it is, day after day and then gets to go on vacation. It’s a respite from routine. “Vacation” doesn’t have to be a trip to Tuscany (you wish!) or even an overnight away; just a few hours to yourself for whatever YOU want or need to do constitutes a break and can provide benefits.
Another myth is that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Rather, it is proactive and healthy. On the other hand, the mental and physical fallout from being a family caregiver is well documented.
How Respite Care Works
If your loved one lives with you, respite care could be at your house. There are other equally viable options: a few days for your loved one in an outside facility such as assisted living or a nursing home, or adult day care.
Best advice: Get those siblings and relatives who say, “If there’s anything I can do,” or who have no concept of what you do all day—that little job of caregiving– to spell you for a weekend. It may be mind-blowing, but at the very least, they will “get” what it’s like to be a caregiver.
They might not know how to help and feel good about being asked. It’s possible you haven’t asked. (Asking for help effectively is a blog post for another day.)
I recently needed to speak with a daughter caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s for a story I was writing. I could practically hear the exhaustion in her email. Her mother was dependent on her for everything and the daughter had to quit her job to care for her. She was so consumed with her role that she told me that she wanted to talk to me on the phone but had absolutely no time. Instead, she answered my questions via email in the middle of the night. Talk about a prime candidate for respite care!
To learn about the benefits and other nitty-gritty, including types of respite, ways to vet services, eligibility through Medicare and Medicaid, and state and local resources, check out the information below. Or, better yet, if your siblings or other family members can’t get away (young kids, grandkids, a spouse, work, distance, money), hand them this list and have them do the research.
I am sitting in an Art Deco movie theatre outside of Boston watching Humphrey Bogart hand Ingrid Bergman her travel papers. As Bogie utters, “Here’s looking at you, kid!” the audience yells the famous line at the screen. I have absolutely no idea who among them has dementia and who are their family caregivers but they all have a common interest in the creative arts.
Now picture this: at a world-class museum, I watch both Alzheimer’s caregivers and their beloved parent, spouse or sibling, talk animatedly about what they see in the Picasso in front of them.
On another note: At the Unforgettables choir founded by Mary Mittelman, a professor of research in the department of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, caregivers and family members with Alzheimer’s sing their hearts out once a week for two hours with a music therapist. It’s not just familiar tunes; participants are able to learn new songs through music and movement. They have even put on concerts for the public.
Welcome to the great equalizer called “the creative arts” or “creative aging.” Around the country, programs are springing up for older adults with and without memory loss. Many of these initiatives include caregivers, but far from all.
At the senior theatre company Stagebridge in Oakland, CA, more than 30 creative arts classes in improv, acting, storytelling, playwrighting, acting, and singing, among others, are offered every week.
The movie and museum programs I attended on the East Coast have been replicated nationwide. Long-term care facilities are bringing playwrights, dancers, musicians, actors, poets, and other professionals into long-term care facilities to work with residents and staff. Other programs take place in libraries, community centers, senior centers, adult day care and arts institutions.
Creative Arts programs offer big benefits
When older people are involved in the arts—writing poetry or plays, composing songs and stories, participating in music, dancing (even in a wheelchair), watching snippets of big picture classics, or creating or viewing art—the emotional, physical and intellectual benefits can be tremendous.
Studies have shown that creative arts programs (where older people are involved, interested, and learning something new) can boost concentration, cognition, mood and self-esteem, trigger long-term memories, reduce falls, loneliness, depression, pain and the need for medication, and increase mobility. Participants feel valued and part of a group.
Caregivers reap positive results, too. It gives them the opportunity to do something with their family member, not just for them. They can temporarily escape the new role they have assumed as caregiver/care recipient and just be two people having fun together in the moment—like old times.
Good news! You don’t have to scramble to find programs in your area. The National Center for Creative Aging has handily compiled a directory by state (bravo!). You can also check with your local senior center or Area Agency on Aging or look in your local paper.