While enduring COVID-19 restrictions and the passing of his wife of 56 years, Gerald Wood creates paintings to keep him uplifted. Though he’s dabbled in art since he was six years old, it became a full-time endeavor only a few years ago, in his late 70s.
“I started when my wife was in bad shape,” he says. Mr. Wood was the caregiver for his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife, Linda, with whom he shared “a love affair since day one.”
While participating in a caregiver support group offered by Duet: Partners In Health & Aging, he was introduced to the book, “Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping with Stress and Grief,” by Dr. Pauline Boss.
“Dr. Boss was a lifesaver,” says Mr. Wood. “Her book spoke to me at a time when I needed it. The rigors of caregiving can either break you or make you. She says re-inventing yourself is the key to surviving.”
In response to her encouragement to “broaden your identity and do what makes you happy,” Mr. Wood began taking art courses. “It’s a release and joy,” he says. “The weight of the world is lifted.”
Mr. Wood began to bring his paintings to the support group for “show and tell.” Fellow caregivers bought some of his work and commissioned pieces. That launched a new pursuit. His work has been selected for exhibitions, including one in the Boutique Gallery at the Phoenix Mayo Clinic. Mr. Wood employs what he calls “a reckless abandon approach,” to create his abstract art. “Thus, like a box of chocolates,” he says, “you never know what you’re going to get. I start with no clue what I’ll end up with.”
He had no clue where he’d end up at this stage in his life. Nearly 83, Mr. Wood says he’s thinking of mortality. Thanks to Duet, where he discovered Dr. Boss, Mr. Wood says he has a new lease on life—a purpose. “My art, friends, family, faith and outside interests, including Duet, make me feel younger than my years. Life is a banquet!”
Caregivers, as well as medical professionals, who seek inspiration from Dr. Pauline Boss have an opportunity at the upcoming Family Caregiver Virtual Symposium presented by Duet. Dr. Boss will discuss “Caregiving in the Midst of Pandemic Uncertainty.” Drawing from her most recent book, “The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic” (W. W. Norton, 2021), she will discuss how new ambiguous losses have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and how family caregivers can cope and stay resilient. Co-presenter, Dr. Arthur Kleinman, M.D., will discuss “The Soul of Care: Addressing the Crisis in Caregiving.” Drawing from his most recent book, “The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor,” he will share his reflections about caring for his wife, and how the experience transformed his thinking about our medical system and the need to put those who give care at its center.
Dr. Kleinman and Dr. Boss will share their professional expertise as academicians, researchers, clinical practitioners and authors, as well as relate their personal experiences as caregivers to their beloved spouses. KJZZ reporter, Kathy Ritchie, will moderate. Participants will have an opportunity to submit questions during the presentation.
The event takes place 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17. Family caregivers are free; professionals are $15. Register at duetaz.org/symposium to be sent a link prior to the event. Registration will remain open until 5 p.m. Feb. 15. All registrants will be entered into a drawing; 10 autographed books, five by each author, will be awarded.
Editor’s note: Deanne Poulos works in caregiver services for Duet and is also a freelance writer and public relations professional.