In Austin, Texas, individuals dealing with the stress and burden of being a family caregiver have a program that can help them cope. Organized writing workshops are helping these caregivers regularly express their emotions in a healthy way.
The writing workshops are coordinated by a number of local organizations working together. The Austin Public Library Friends Foundation’s program Badgerdog teamed up with Mobile Art Program and Health’s Angels. Health’s Angels is a service group of St. David’s Foundation Community Fund. These organizations have created the writing workshops, let by instructors who provide the resources for caregivers to engage in therapeutic activities.
The instructors utilize writing prompts and model poems for the caregivers to use as an example, and they are encouraged to write expressively.
On the other side of the spectrum, the individuals receiving care are also able to engage in therapeutic activities. They are presented with similar opportunities to create sculptures, self-portraits, and other forms of expressive art.
Austin has seen a 110% growth in the pre-senior population in the last 10 years, an indication of the major “Silver Wave” that is to come both across Texas and the entire nation.
Baby Boomers are beginning to retire and need long term care at higher rates than ever before. With fewer children and fewer family caregivers available, now is a crucial time for individuals to address the risk of long term care and the burden that often comes along with it.
9 in 10 Americans receiving long term care are utilizing an unpaid caregiver, typically either a spouse, family member, friend, or other loved one. This unpaid care is valued at an estimated $450 billion annually, a staggering cost for something that will only rise in prevalence. One Austin couple makes up part of the population involved in unpaid care.
Stephanie Peco became the primary caregiver of her husband Keith, when after years of memory problems, he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Like many adults in the United States, Stephanie and Keith had to face the issue of health much earlier than expected. For them, the benefits of the writing workshops are tangible.
Stephanie was surprised how easily the writing came when she sat down to it at her first workshop. When it came time to pen her first poem, it happened naturally. “It just came out of me, all at once, like it was already written,” Peco explains.
The therapeutic benefits of writing have long been discussed, but it can be difficult to know just how effective it is. One study out of the University of Auckland found that daily expressive writing was associated with faster wound healing in healthy adults ages 64 to 97, a significant finding, since many times, the only perceived benefits are mental, such as reducing stress and anxiety. For some, though, writing can be much more.
Find out more about the program or read more about the rising pre-senior population in Austin. If you are in your middle age, it may be time to start planning for retirement and considering the potential costs that come along with long term care.