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  • Writer's pictureKristinMBeck

Emotional Health and Art Making

Updated: May 30

My dad has dementia. After a hospital stay, I moved him from his apartment to an ALF. To do so, I had to take over his life, which can be very complicated. He had lived alone for many years, and from afar, he seemed to be living a fine but slower life of retirement. I’d visit and call often but didn’t absorb the depth of his declining memory until I had been given the charge of taking care of him. His memory is bad. He knows it is. The fact that he knows it is heartbreaking to me.

 

He has moments of lucidity tethered to the blank canvas stops of reality. I know we’ve arrived because he will ask, ‘What are we doing?’ with a flair of frustration in his voice. He shares stories on repeat, but he can’t remember some of his older tales when prompted. He knows my voice but sometimes can’t remember my name. He knows I drive an electric car but at times can’t recall my face. You can see his uncertainty. The fact that I know this is heartbreaking.

 

As a writer and visual artist, one of my best coping mechanisms is to create art. I created a body of work in response to caring for my dad that is about dementia, memory, and identity. It has helped me in myriad ways. I can meet him where is his. I can reframe my questions from ‘Do you remember…’ I can find beauty in the moments of lucidity we can still share. Until we no longer can.   

Portrait of man being obliterated by a blue dot
Obliteration, 2023, Ink on Paper, 18” X 8”

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