The Emotional Impact of Writing Poetry while Caregiving. Caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer's face a range of challenges, including emotional stress, physical exhaustion, and financial strain. One way that caregivers can cope with these challenges is by engaging in creative expression. Using poetry as a form of bite-sized journaling can be an effective way for caregivers to process their experiences and emotions.
Joining me this week is Margaret Stawoway. Margaret is the editor of the compilation book, "Storms of the Inland Sea: Poems of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving " She's here to talk about how caregivers can use poetry as bite-sized journaling and gain all the same benefits of the longer-form writing.
Writing and creative expression have been shown to have therapeutic benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving mood, and enhancing overall well-being. Poetry can be a powerful tool for self-expression, as it allows caregivers to capture complex emotions and experiences in a condensed and impactful way. Poetry journaling can also help caregivers make sense of their experiences and find meaning in their caregiving journey.
Bite-sized journaling involves writing brief, focused exercises that can be done quickly and easily. Caregivers can use poetry prompts to help them get started with their writing. Examples of poetry prompts that caregivers can use include:
- "Describe a moment of joy you experienced today"
- "Write about a difficult decision you had to make"
- "Write a letter to your loved one with Alzheimer's"
To get started with poetry journaling, caregivers can set aside a specific time and place for writing, use free-form writing techniques, and not worry about grammar or structure.
Please enjoy this poem from the book.
The tub fills inch by inch,
as I kneel beside it, trail my fingers
in the bright braid of water. Mom perches on the toilet seat,
entranced by the ritual, until she realizes the baths for her.
Oh no, she says, drawing her three layers of shirts to her chest,
crossing her arms and legs. Oh no, I couldn’t, she repeats,
brow furrowing, that look I now recognize like an approaching squall.
I abandon reason, the hygiene argument, promise a Hershey's bar, if she will just,
please, take off her clothes. Oh no, she repeats, her voice rising.
Meanwhile, the water is cooling. I strip off my clothes, step into it,
let the warm water take me completely, slipping down until
only my face shines up, a moon mask. Mom stays with me, interested now
in this turn of events. I sit up.
Will you wash my back, Mom?
So much gone, but let this still be there. She bends over
to dip the washcloth in the still warm water, squeezes it,
lets it dribble down my back, leans over to rub the butter pat
of soap, swiping each armpit, then rinses off the suds with long
practiced strokes. I turn around to thank her, catch her smiling,
lips pursed, humming,
still a mother with a daughter
whose back needs washing. --Holly J. Hughes
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