When someone enters hospice care there are plenty of feelings that can be evoked. Residents of Dubuque and elsewhere and their families may be overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions, including quite a lot of fear, anxiety , nd uncertainty.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is familiar with the variety of emotion and ranges of feelings that people can experience at this stage of their life, everything from spiritual concerns to worries about the family’s future finances.
Sometimes, they’re aware of what they’re feeling and want to talk about it, and our staff is always available to lend an ear and listen. Although the hospice process is familiar to our staff, the experience is likely new for patients, so there are often all sorts of questions or concerns.
Other times, patients may not quite know exactly what they feel or want to seek other outlets to express what they’re thinking about and their general emotions.
Some write down their thoughts, which can be therapeutic. Some record video or audio messages for loved ones, which can be powerful and become valuable keepsakes for loved ones in the future.
One area that helps people share their creativity, express their feelings and even have some fun is art.
Visual art is especially useful, whether it’s painting, coloring, or other media. Even if someone doesn’t have much of a formal art background, they can still have fun learning and sharing.
Though some people think of art as something either done completely for fun in school, and others think of something more professional that involves fancy pretentious galleries, there’s a whole lot of stuff in between.
Art can be used to boost people’s mental and emotional well-being. Therapists have used art for years to help people express themselves.
It’s also has shown benefits in hospice communities.
The Connecticut Hospice, the country’s first hospice, has been offering art projects for patients since the late 1970s. The thinking is that by providing creative outlets, the hospice can help residents improve their quality of life. It can help them feel in control of some aspects of their life as well, especially when they may sometimes feel frustrated and uncertain.
Residents and patients are encouraged to share something of themselves through their artwork, along with performing arts like music, singing, poetry, and creative storytelling. Therapy is provided by a blend of artists, musicians, teachers, volunteers, and certified therapists with training in art and music.
The personal instruction is supplemented by a variety of educational supplies, including movies, books and music.
Musical therapy is available for in-house patients and those who are receiving hospice service at their own homes.
The hospice staff said art therapy provides a useful release for those who participate in it, including lower stress, lower anxiety and improved outlook. These positive feelings also lead to a need for less medication, another plus.
It also provides something special for observers: it helps everyone connect better to each other, which is also vital especially at this point in someone’s life.
Employees of this hospice also consult to other similar programs around the country that want to learn how to offer more creative outlets to their respective populations.
There’s other clinical research that shows that art can have positive outcomes.
Hospice programs in California reported that art programs have good results for all patients, including those with dementia.
Though some of them are suffering from advanced dementia, they still are able to do creative things like paint pictures or share stories. In some situations, people were able to resume creative activities they’ve done earlier in their lives, such as quilting, and other times they learned new skills.
The process of artwork actually activated different areas of their brains, including some cognitive areas that hadn’t been used recently due to dementia, but still retained past knowledge of how to be expressive. This stimulation also worked better than medication and had a longer and more positive effect.
Any opportunity to be creative is useful, but in this case, hospice officials said the outlet provided an opportunity for residents to ponder their future. Though it likely will include death in the next few weeks or months, people are concerned about what that will be like, and what, if anything, will happen afterward. At the same time, art will help them consider the future of those they’ll leave behind,
January is a perfect time to learn more about how art can be helpful to just about everyone. Jan. 31 is considered “National Inspire Your Heart with Art Day,” an informal, unofficial holiday that encourages everyone to seek opportunities to get creative, learn new techniques and express themselves.
But really, any day is a good one to creative, and the staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care will continue to encourage patients to get inspired to share their feelings and make something meaningful.