Sat, Jun 03|
Southampton Art Gallery
It Shouldn't Be This Way
A Creative Exploration into the Current Realities of being a Care Partner Facilitated by Kirsten Camartin MSW RSW DTATI Social Worker/Support Counsellor/Art Therapist Alzheimer Society Grey Bruce
Time & Location
Jun 03, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Southampton Art Gallery, 201 High St, Southampton, ON N0H 2L0, Canada
About the event
Public Reception SAT JUN 3rd - Refreshments Served
This workshop saw 8 people come together to explore the realities of being a care partner to someone who is or who has lived with dementia. Using a trauma-informed art therapy approach, a deep dive into the things we want to protect in our lives, the things we would rather not deal with and the importance of accepting painful and unchangeable aspects of the circumstances we find ourselves in (aka radical acceptance), was safely completed using a variety of materials on a wooden panel, coaster, and a cup.
In the first part of the directive, we explored the things we want to protect in our lives. Using a variety of art materials including fabric, collages, paints and odds and ends, participants filled the panel with symbols that represented those things they want to protect. This makes up the background on the wooden panel. The list of what the participants want to protect in their lives included but was not limited to: things that bring solace like the garden, goldfish, marriage, the self, fun times, family and friends.
In the second part of the directive, the things in our lives we would rather not deal with were explored. Some participants wrote these on the back of the coaster and glued it down onto the panel. The list of what they would rather not deal with included but was not limited to things like stress, worry, self-doubt, guilt, anger, loneliness, being overwhelmed, dealing with incontinence and attacks from others about their caregiving.
In the last part of the directive, each person was asked to spill some paint on their piece, to emphasize that despite our best efforts to protect or avoid, there are pieces of our lives and unforeseen circumstances, that come up and that we must radically accept and deal with, if we hope to minimize our pain. Emphasis was placed on Marsha Linehan’s (2014) notion that pain + non-acceptance = suffering and being stuck whereas pain + acceptance = ordinary pain with the recognition that it may be at times, extremely intense. In this portion, a few participants hesitated at wanting to spill something on a piece they worked hard to create. This resistance is like what happens when we are faced with circumstances and realities that we do not expect or do not want to deal with. Two participants realized that despite the spill, the entire piece was not ruined, and understood that this too shall pass. Another couple of participants saw the spill as something that they needed to be rid of, like a toxic overflow. As a Social Worker and Art Therapist I wonder, if one is to move ahead, one must also realize that certain things must be expelled, let go of or released. For another, the spill represented the anger she felt at being dealt this horrible hand that ruined their wonderful life. I am curious if this recognition may also be seen as an acceptance of her emotional state.
Displaying the pieces for the community to engage with was a key goal in being able to highlight to the public, what the journey of a care partner might look like and to deepen an understanding of the realities of a neighbour, friend or family member who may be or may have been in a care partner role to someone living with dementia. It is hoped that doing so will support a non-judgemental stance towards those who are or who have experienced the care partner journey and an acknowledgement that being a care partner is one of the most emotionally intense parts of a person’s life that requires movement towards and not against acceptance. As a community, we can come together to support such acceptance by offering a friendly smile, a helping hand or a safe place to feel held.