Caregiver Pilot Programs in Cultural Institutions

Meredith Wong,
Manager of Connect2culture®

A diagnosis of dementia not only changes the life of the person living with the disease, it has a dramatic impact on friends and family. The person with dementia contends with behavioral and personality shifts, cognitive, spatial and perceptual changes and other symptoms that affect their ability to function. While both experiencing and monitoring this emotional rollercoaster, caregivers put their lives on hold to take care of the personal, medical and business affairs for the person in their care. A caregiver’s life — previously filled with jobs, friends, family, and social activities — is replaced with logistical, clinical, legal, and financial responsibilities. The caregiver’s identity, independent of the person with dementia, diminishes as their focus shifts to care.

To alleviate a caregiver’s feelings of isolation and frustration, CaringKind’s connect2culture® program partners with several New York City cultural institutions to create opportunities for self-reflection and recharging. Organizations like Ailey Arts in Education (a program of the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation), the Rubin Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum work with us to create safe and comfortable spaces for caregivers to enjoy each other’s company in interactive and guided cultural experiences.

Connect2culture and Ailey Arts in Education created two dance workshop series — AileyDance for Caregivers and AileyDance for Caregivers and Individuals with Dementia – at the New Settlement Community Center in the Mt. Eden neighborhood of the Bronx. AileyDance for Caregivers teaches choreographed dance combinations in a variety of dance styles. AileyDance for Caregivers and Individuals with Dementia, similar to AileyDance for Caregivers in content, will be adapted to the needs and abilities of the participants with dementia and will involve working in pairs. Some of these dance movements can be duplicated at home as engagement activities and encouragement to stay active.

Continuing their collaboration to support caregivers, connect2culture and The Rubin Museum’s program, Empowering Caregivers: Mindful Tours, Conversation, and Community, encourages mindful self-reflection through conversation about contemporary and ancient art. Caregivers engage in dialogue around universal themes of leading a meaningful life. The museum purposefully creates a comfortable environment for exploration, where the needs for respite and support are understood and participation is encouraged and valued. While some caregivers may come to learn about the works of art and the ideas behind them, Empowering Caregivers is ultimately about connection through shared cultural experiences. To round out the experience, conversations continue over light refreshments in the Museum’s Café Serai where participants can talk, laugh, eat and enjoy time with new friends. In the fall session, some caregivers stayed in the café to talk after the tea had ended and others spent additional time in the galleries. One caregiver explained that the experience reduced her stress, that she appreciated having this time for herself and that she wished the program could be offered more frequently.

This summer, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum will host a pilot program for caregivers on their World War II aircraft carrier. Combining music and dance, caregivers will connect informally through a social activity. The Intrepid’s caregiver appreciation event recognizes the need for self-care, bringing together families whose lives have been dramatically changed by this disease. The program will enable engagement through music, storytelling and memories of service, family, and community.

Whether music, dance, art or history is an interest, caregiver programs are available for New York City families impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia; to take time for themselves and to enjoy meeting others who understand the need for social and emotional support. If you are interested in these programs, please use the contact information listed below.

Visit our Connect2Culture® page for a full list of partners and activities.

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