Free art program aims to help caregivers de-stress & take time for themselves

Art program helps caregivers get some "me time"
Posted at 6:26 AM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 16:58:58-05

With our aging population, more and more people find themselves becoming caregivers. And while it’s a labor of love for many of them, it can also take a toll. That’s why “self care” is important to remember.


Have you ever noticed how looking at art can be stress-relieving?

Susan Sharbaugh of Bloomfield Hills has learned making art is relaxing, too.


We caught up with her while she was working on a printmaking project using clay at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.


Every other Thursday she joins other caregivers in a free program called Art of Caregiving.


For Sharbaugh, it’s 90-minutes of “me time.”


“It’s true respite. That you can leave everything at the door and come in and focus on something so totally different, it’s a real gift,” said Sharbaugh – her voice catching as her eyes teared up – showing how much this opportunity means to her.


Sharbaugh first became a caregiver for her father who died in 2012.


She’s been the primary caregiver for her mom ever since.


They have many good days together. But Susan’s art class is just for her.


“It means a lot because it allows you to be something other than just your caregiver,” she explained.


After each course -- whether it’s watercolor or fiber art -- students can take an art kit home with supplies to work on a project with the person they’re caring for or enjoy it themselves.


At the beginning of the course, each student also receives an art journal where they can store visual inspirations.


“The program is designed for the first 15 minutes [to be just] socializing,” said Annie VanGelderen – President and CEO of the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.


VanGelderen said more than 700 people have participated in the program since it started three years ago. The goal? Take their mind off day-to-day stresses.


“That’s the transformative power of art. To be able to focus just on that project. And we always say, no art experience needed. Many of our students haven’t even taken a class since middle school. But every other week they’re learning a new skill,” said VanGelderen.


“And at the end of an hour-and-a-half to look down and see it’s a water color painting that I have up on my wall now…it just brings me calm and it brings me happiness,” said


Susan’s learned the art of caregiving.. Includes caring for yourself.


VanGelderen said she’s in the process of getting the Art of Caregiving program trademarked.  When that happens, the free program will hopefully spread to other art centers and museums throughout the U.S.




Every other Thursday from 9:30am-11am OR 6:00pm-7:30pm


Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center


To register for this free program, you must be a caregiver (of the elderly and/or people with Alzheimer’s/dementia).  You can be a paid caregiver or someone who takes care of a loved one.


The program is FREE, but you must register in advance.


To register, please contact Julie at the BBAC:


(248)644-0866 x 111 or email:


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