Caring for a family member or other loved one is one situation where art, music and nature could all open up life. But if nature, music and art are to become ways for carers to recharge, then it’s important to see not only how and why they might help, but also how and why they might seem impossible.
This is National Carers’ Week, running from 7 to 13 June. Make Caring Visible And Valued is the theme this year, highlighting how Britain’s millions of unpaid carers have struggled through the pandemic. Losing a lot of the support upon which they previously depended – from other family or friends or from the social care system – has proved very difficult. Learn more about the campaign to help at https://www.carersuk.org
Caring is so diverse an experience andmusic, art and nature could help on different levels. Caring can be physically exhausting and time intensive, but it can also be emotional and saddening, as carers and loved ones alike may have to adjust to a new, more dependant relationship and to the everyday impact of their needs. Some 2 million people in Britain now care for someone who has dementia, and this is only one of so many different conditions. There are also many, many parent carers, and young carers.
Art, for one, improves wellbeing in some specific ways. It can make people feel calmer, partly by clearing their minds – maybe a welcome escape for carers. It can brighten life as a colourful, creative stimulus, which could boost mood for carers whose morale may be sapped by caring’s endless demands. It can help people work through their feelings, responses and emotions, which might prove a release for carers. And it’s flexible. One important way art helps people is by absorbing them, allowing them to set aside the everyday and focus just on art. Losing themselves in their artwork is unlikely to be possible for long for many carers, who need to be alert to their loved one’s needs. But people can be creative in quick bursts – drawing is particularly flexible and simple with no need for preparation or clearing away, and still a way to focus just on art for a while.
Many carers would be unable to leave their loved one to go out and attend a choir rehearsal or art class: so the growth of Zoom and of more virtual events could now help create more opportunities for carers to join in from home, so they are less excluded.
Art, music and nature are also all areas where carers and loved ones could connect and share, maybe by drawing, painting or colouring together, enjoying the wealth of music on YouTube, or watching birds. If spoken language is an issue then these could become ways to communicate; and they can become common ground where carer and loved one can for a time forget the need for care, if and where possible.
It is difficult – sometimes impossible – for carers to find the time or motivation to make art, music or nature a regular part of their lives. But even occasionally, they can be liberating. I really hope that as it grows, Medley will reach out to carers (and their loved ones) and share & learn how music, nature and art might have a part to play in opning a door.
Do you have thoughts or experiences you might like to share in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002? Thank you.