Creativity and caregiving go hand in hand!

Invariably caregivers have stories of how they used creativity to overcome problems and enhance the lives of both themselves and their loved ones.

For example, one caregiver no longer had time to leave home and meet her friends. So she and her friends devised a new way to have gatherings—over the phone. They met each weekday morning for a standing phone call to share their problems and stay connected. The call became a lifeline for friendship and sanity amidst the deteriorating health of her husband.

When my husband’s life became constricted by a stroke that left him paralyzed from the neck down, I searched for creative ways to bring fun into our lives. I no longer had time to cook for dinner parties and leaving home was challenging, so we hosted potluck dinners where all our friends did the cooking and brought the meal to us. I also occasionally devised elaborate ways to go out and enjoy a movie or dinner or even a trip out of town.

Now, with the coronavirus affecting everyone’s lives, going out to enjoy a movie and dinner, hosting a potluck, or traveling to a beloved location would be a challenge for everyone. Creativity has to be cranked up a few notches, and not just for caregivers.

So what can you do to increase the creativity in your life and consequently bring more joy into your life? Here are some ideas to inspire you:

1) What Do You Miss Most?

One of the best ways to become creative is to first decide what would please you most. For example, if you miss going to movies with friends, host a watch party where you and a few friends watch the same movie at the same time from home. You can chat via text as the movie progresses and then talk about it afterwards via Zoom. Make it a standing appointment so all of your friends know that Thursday nights are group movie nights. People have been enjoying virtual dance parties, virtual meals, and virtual game nights regularly since March, and for caregivers, who even in normal times are restricted from leaving home as often as they would like, these types of events can be wonderful options.

2) What Do You Love to Do?

Is there anything you love that you don’t normally have time for because you are so busy with work or caregiving or your normal social life? If you have even a little extra time because you’re leaving home less due to the coronavirus, maybe there is something you’ve always wanted to do that you now have time to embrace. Perhaps you’d like to learn a new language or play the ukulele or figure out how to do some basic plumbing. There are lots of free apps, social media groups, or online classes that can allow you to begin learning anything the moment you feel the urge. Or maybe you’d like to do a long-delayed art project or connect more with your family and friends. Go for it. Start that project or call someone you miss. Make an appointment to do something towards your goal every day or week or month. Find a way to turn the negative into a positive. Even if you can only set aside 15 minutes once a week, you’ll make progress and feel good about heading toward a your goal.

3) Name those Problems

For each individual, the problems of caregiving and altered living due to coronavirus will be different, but in most cases, the first step to solving a problem is identifying it. So, take a moment to list the things you’d like to change, then brainstorm alone or with friends or family about ways to change these things, if possible. For example, if the news it making you or your loved ones crazy, perhaps set a time limit for how much you will consume each day or turn on a baseball game or concert instead. Maybe your day has lost its structure, and a daily routine might help. Or perhaps, the reduction of in-person connection is causing you or your loved one pain, so maybe there’s a way to meet a friend outdoors in a safe manner or schedule a weekly zoom call to look forward to.

4) Try Something New

Take a new idea and run with it. Here are just some possibilities:

  • Work on your family tree.
  • Start or join a virtual book club.
  • Pull out a board game or puzzle.
  • Check out your library’s virtual offerings for an interesting class or tour.
  • Experiment with a new recipe.
  • View a serene virtual sunset.
  • Pour through your photo albums to make collages for a wall display—even if you can’t be around extended family, you can still feel surrounded by them.
  • Record audio or video messages for your loved ones that they will cherish and enjoy.

Some things may be solved with creativity, while others might require increased acceptance, but usually if your mind is open and you’re looking for solutions, you and the people you love will find a way to make things a bit better. Celebrate when you can do this. Each episode of creative problem solving is a victory worth savoring.

Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well! —Kathi

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Lightbulb Sunset photo by Ameen Khoury for Unsplash