Artist Caregiver: I Can Make it Work!

Times change and then they change back. Sort of. Ages ago, families took care of their elders with what we now call “extended families” being the norm rather than the exception. Today, many people are again taking on the care of elderly and infirm parents and other relations instead of leaving people to fend alone for themselves. The “extended family” is becoming, once more, the norm rather than the exceptional. I have become my mother’s primary caregiver and I am an artist. This series of articles is intended to elucidate my journey in this role both as an artist and as a woman coming to terms with a job I have absolutely no training for. It is also intended to serve as encouragement and support for others in similar circumstances.

Being a primary caregiver takes time, energy, and commitment. It is emotionally draining and physically exhausting. Watching a loved one’s health inexorably declining, despite my best efforts, is not very encouraging. Nonetheless, I rejoice on the good days and just do my best on the bad ones. Any committed caregiver will tell you that it’s a hard road to travel and it can (will) get overwhelming. My perspective is that of an independent artist whose income depends on getting her art out, seen, and available for collectors to purchase who is now having to divert time from those tasks to the increasing attention and care needed by my loved one. This does lead to stress of which the most trying include:
Watching one’s loved one decline
Loss of income
Lack of atention to one’s own health
Loss of time to devote to tasks and actions that bring fulfilment (e.g., creating one’s works of art – at least in my case!)

If you are a caregiver, (in the arts or not), you, too, will have probably encountered the same or similar stresses. I won’t dwell on what I’m giving up, nor on the stresses themselves, but rather on how I am adjusting and how other may also benefit from my experiences. You will read about the tricks, habits, and counterbalances I am using or plan on trying so as to enhance my productivity and fufilment as an artist. A great many of these will be applicable to readers in other fields though I admit a bias towards the arts as enhancers for every person’s life. I look forward to hearing from you – what you have tried, what has or has not worked for you, what you’d like to try. This is a journey that I hope will serve to help others in circumstances similar to mine, now and in the future.

Two of my recent adjustments:
1) Contacting the local VNA and going to my first monthly caregivers support group meeting

2) Bead weaving and painting in a room nearby my mother so she can see me and what I’m working on.

10 Responses to “Artist Caregiver: I Can Make it Work!”

  1. danielle Says:

    You’re so right! Americans have only recently been made aware of the joys, sorrows and importance of caring for our elders. Europeans have always lived many generations in the same home.Didn’t North Americans also lived the same life until “things” got in the way – a want of an extra car, boat, summer home…just things. We forgot what is important and makes us whole – family.
    I would sit for hours in my grandmother’s room and hold her hand or read to her quietly (near the end of her life) while she slept. The nurse would come in to tell me that I should leave – “she doesn’t know you’re here” – my reply was always the same….” she sat and watched me sleep when I was an infant…I didn’t know she was there but she enver left me”.
    A presence is sometimes all one requires – I can’t imagine what you’re going through but I am on the threshold with my mom – being her only daughter I know she will live with me when she can no longer claim her independence.
    Already she does and says things that never fail to surprise me…the time draws near.
    I look forward to your blog. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Maria Says:

    Very interesting post, Patricia. I can only imagine what a difficult situation you must be in but seeking help from outside sources can only benefit you both. Keep the faith and I’m sure you can make it work.

  3. Ileana Munteanu Says:

    Great entry, Patricia! I understand what you are going through and I admire you, you are a strong woman. I couldn’t, wouldn’t do differently, I am from a family with tradition in taking care of the elderly or the ill!
    Looking forward to more entries.

    ileana

  4. Patricia C Says:

    Thank you Danielle, Maria, and Ileana, for your encouragement. I grew up having at least one Grandparent living with us and I can’t imagine making any other choice – at least until the time comes when she must have continuous nursing care that I am untrained and unable to provide.

    Patricia

  5. Audrey Says:

    Bless you Patricia. My prayers are with you and your Mother.

  6. Patricia C Says:

    Thank you so much, Audrey.

  7. shibori girl Says:

    Patricia,

    I’ve been there. You are SO RIGHT that it can be an overwhelming task. You are doing all the right things – a support group will be invaluable to you, as a resource, as well as a sounding board when you feel stressed.

    Don’t forget to take care of yourself! As women, I think we are trained from childhood to put our own needs on the back burner and take care of everyone else first. You’ll burn out if you forget to cherish yourself a little.

    You are doing a wonderful thing for your mother. I wish you luck…

    Kate

  8. Patricia C Says:

    Thanks, Kate. I am looking forward to the second support group meeting on Monday. I am finding that caregivers taking care of ourselves is universally low on our lists of priorities. Very likely because of that early training and also because it’s easier to short-change oneself than ask for help. And also, easier to let go of when one is so very exhausted. I am hoping to get some of that back, at least a little bit.

    Patricia

  9. Dennis Says:

    I commend your efforts in care giving. I was a caregiver for my father for years. It is extremely stressful, time consuming, and humbling. Your efforts will for the most part go unnoticed, but be encouraged that you are doing the noble and right thing!

  10. Patricia C Says:

    Thank you Dennis. It has its rewards in that later on when others are saying that they could have done more, I will know that I did all I can and that, at times, my mother was happy and relieved that I could be with her.