Care for the Caregiver

 

All staff members in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders work very closely with families and patients, some of whom we have known for months or even years.  Working alongside these families, staff members naturally witness and experience a large range of emotions.  As a traditional workday on the unit doesn’t always allow for very much downtime, theTracy’s Kids art therapists host regular Care for the Caregiver sessions for staff members in the art therapy room. 

Care for the Caregiver sessions allow a time and space for any and all staff on the Hematology/Oncology unit to take time out of a busy day for themselves.  During this time, staff members are encouraged to draw support from one another and to use the art materials provided to facilitate the process of relaxation and reflection.  Mandalas, or circle drawings, are a very popular choice amongst staff – the containing and centering qualities of the circular form have long been used in cultures around the world. During a sometimes hectic workday, the art making creates an opportunity for self care that enables staff members to continue to provide first class care for patients and families.

Clinic Kaleidoscope

 

Sometimes patients must come to get treatment every day, often for hours, for weeks on end. When that is the case it can tax the creativity of both the patient and the art therapist. I try to keep acquiring new ideas and new skills through various blogs, classes, and books. However, sometimes the old ideas, ones long forgotten, can spur on a new creative endeavor.

About 20 years ago I worked in my Aunt’s stained glass studio where we had two kaleidoscope kits. They were tedious to assemble and difficult to sell. The other day the idea of a kaleidoscope came back when a teenage patient, who had been at the clinic for weeks, was looking for something new to do.

 We managed to make this one using a paper towel roll, small mosaic mirror tiles taped together, medical tape, and parts of a few urine specimen containers. As my memories of how the kaleidoscope was assembled came flooding back, our design gradually took form.

 When we completed one and displayed it in the art room, many other kids wanted to make one too! As we began to run out of the supplies we originally used, the children found ways to alter the first design and create other masterpieces with the materials on hand.

 

 

I Can’t Tell You But I’ll Show You….

Some children in treatment for cancer really struggle with the all the demands of  treatment, which include weekly finger pokes or a port access, shots and examinations by the doctor, and much more. Many of them cry and scream and let the treatment team know they are mad and don’t like what is happening.

Then there are kids who are incredibly compliant, say little about the treatment process and seem to make the best of a very difficult situation. These kids intrigue me. I always wonder about their experience and what they are not saying out loud. And then they begin to create and many of these quieter children and teens say a great deal about what they’re feeling through the imagery.

These two pictures are by a 9 year old boy who has said very little about his experience with cancer and the intensive treatment. His art work however, is very expressive and has become the vehicle through which he expresses many of the things that he doesn’t say out loud. It seems to be easier for him to express himself through the art; a seemingly natural way for him to convey his feelings about his experiences. When you look closely you begin to understand….