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).

 Caregivers hand

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