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~The Artistry of Caregiving, Letters to Inspire Your Caregiver Journey~

by Carole Brecht

I started caring for my Mom full-time in 2009 after I closed my art gallery/custom frame shop. I had planned to secure a job within six months, but my career path took a turn when my Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. My Dad was still working full-time and I lived nearby, so it seemed fitting that I would be taking on the role of Mom’s Caregiver. For a long time, I didn’t know the word “Caregiver” or its meaning. All I knew was that I was the daughter stepping up to help my parents in their senior years. I’ve always been close to my parents and would do anything for them if they called on me. To this day, I am caring for my Dad throughout the work week.

Initially, Mom was on a slow decline, but when she took a fall around the holidays that year and broke her arm, everything changed. She was heavily medicated with pain meds and her mental state began to change drastically. What I witnessed over the next several years of the ravages of this awful disease was horrific and scary. She looked exactly the same, but her aggressive personality changes were huge. At the end of her life, in September 2014, I made a firm decision to write a book for those going through their own Caregiving journeys and began writing The Artistry of Caregiving. All I could think about was helping someone in the same shoes to let them know they were not alone, but very much understood, appreciated and supported. Mom died on November 23, 2014.

I started writing my blog and creating a Facebook page in January 2015, while I was writing my book. I never gave social media a thought and had never written a blog before, though my love for writing started in my 40s. Although I was wallowing in grief, I forged ahead with passion and energy because my desire to help others was so much greater than how sad I felt. I was compelled to write my book and wanted my readers to find inspiration, comfort, connection, feel understood, experience support and find hope. In February 2015 I launched my blog and the San-Gen-Woman Facebook page (formerly known as The Sandwich Woman). I also went on to create Twitter and Instagram pages in May of 2015. 45 countries are represented in my social media and it has been a blessing to be able to touch so many lives in a positive and heartfelt way!

My book includes several of my Caregiver Zentangle Inspired Art designs that affirm and support Caregivers. The book also includes 33 letters written to the readers to help them to navigate the emotional journey of caring for another. It’s meant to be read on the go, in no particular order. If a reader can’t focus or doesn’t have time to read, the images throughout the book will inspire and affirm. The paperback edition will be out in July on Amazon. Whether you are at the beginning, middle or end of your journey, this book is written for you. Here is an excerpt:

“Letter 21

Dear Captain,

You are the captain of the USS Caregiver, and you are in command of a host of people who are helping you sail the Caregiving seas. You make decisions every day that are correct to get to your destination, which is tomorrow and then the next day and the next. You weather all kinds of conditions and you do it with class and joy. Who could ask for a better captain than you?”

Who is a Caregiver?

Caregivers come in different ages, both boys and girls, men and women, teens, young adults and seniors and typically that person has a huge heart. There are Caregivers/Carers all over the world and we are the most diverse population possible! Though my Caregiver experience is based on my relationship caring for my parents in their senior years, the concept of caring for another follows us throughout our lives. We learn to love and to care for others from the time we’re toddlers. People of all ages can read this book and benefit from the emotional support through my words and my Zentangle Inspired Art. My book is your companion, letting you know you are understood and not alone. I hope you refer to The Artistry of Caregiving throughout your lifetime and you share it with others. May my book bless you and comfort you as you navigate the emotional journey of caring for another.

CaroleBrechtPR

CONTACT INFO:

cbrecht4@gmail.com

Amazon: The Artistry of Caregiving, 

Letters to Inspire Your Caregiver Journey

TangledArtBoutique.com

facebook.com/SanGenWoman

SanGenBlog

Twitter: @SanGenWoman

Instagram: Carole Brecht @San_Gen_Woman

TheSandwichWoman.com

Neurofibrillary Tangles don’t Prohibit Zentangles

Like many caregivers (paid and unpaid) my friends are my lifeline. I get satisfaction from being a caregiver, but sometimes I need to get my brain out of my world and into another, in order to keep perspective. I had such an opportunity to change worlds in 2013. Creating Zentangles has been a part of my life ever since.

An acquaintance had suddenly, tragically lost her husband. They had a new business, and I had interviewed them for a local cable TV show.  My show was the last picture/video she had of him. We became fast friends. But she needed time to get her life back together: two kids to raise and get through school, a business to redevelop and a broken heart to mend. In 2013 we went to lunch and she told me how she was doing it all – she was doing a lot of personal work and one of her outlets was Zentangles.

Since then I’ve been teaching myself. I find that my tangles reflect my life (I keep nothing inside!) and when I’m calm, they are calm. When I’m frenzied so are they.  In 2014 I put the practices I’d learned to the ultimate test: I tried to teach the basics to Daisy Girl Scouts (kindergarten and 1st grade girls) on their very first campout.  For some, this was their first time sleeping away from their parents. We all doodled, shaded, colored, and every girl slept through the night! The parents were amazed and impressed that I had been so “skilled” as a leader.

That inspired me to try tangling with another unique group: clients living with dementia. I am a gerontologist (I geek out about aging), and a Certified Dementia Practitioner. Since I’ve also been a caregiver, I know that anything that helps a person with dementia to relax is priceless. I started working with my clients, and I found Zentangles to be an amazing form of expressive arts for most people (not all).  You can get my free e-book Guide to Using Zentangles in Dementia Care by going to www.agingcareacademy.org.

It strikes me as ironic that many of my clients haven’t explored this art form, relaxation therapy or however you want to label it, UNTIL their neurons started to tangle.  What I love about ZT is that the structure offers support, but there are no right/wrong ways. This makes it a natural “failure free” activity to do with people living with cognitive disorders – but if you are a caregiver who does it for escape – feel free to keep this therapy to yourself!

Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CADDCT is Director of Dementia Care Services at Hebrew HealthCare in West Hartford CT (www.hebrewhealthcare.org) and the founder of Aging Care Academy (www.agingcareacademy.org). You can follow her on Instagram at pamela.atwood and watch her free Confident Caregiver Series videos on YouTube (search Pamela_Atwood).

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