Caregivers of family members with dementia put their pens to paper, wrote poetry and found it beneficial in helping them cope.
And, many of the participants in a pilot poetry intervention project, conducted by doctoral student Lori Kidd from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, had not written a single poem since grade school.
Kidd enjoys writing and reading poetry and finds it's a cathartic way to express feelings. That inspired the quest to try this intervention. But it took her 11 months to find people for the study.
"Many people heard the word poetry and were frightened off, saying they couldn't write," she says.
Launching the project, she gave each person a few pointers to start words flowing and provided information and research findings for her doctoral dissertation on transcendence, burden, resilience and symptoms of depression in caregivers with parents or spouses with dementia.
Twenty people between the ages of 41 and 80 participated in the eight-week study.
They were divided into two groups of 10 people each. The first group started off writing poems for four weeks, and then could continue if they so desired. Six of the 10 did as the second group began their poetry writing for four weeks.
Each participant was interviewed three times at the beginning, middle and end of the project. All were tested for the ability to go beyond their transcendance , burden, depression and resiliency.
Kidd also analyzed expressions of emotion, burden and resiliency in the first and last poems.
"I was interested in the kinds of words used and the themes expressed in the poems," says Kidd.
Poems about family members and nature were popular themes.
At the end of the project, 79 poems had been written and most participants found the experience to be fun and creative. Almost all—18 of the 20 participants—noted that they planned to continue writing the poetry after the completion of the study.
Summing up the project, Kidd says, "I see poetry as something that allows people to transcend their situations. Poetry can also be inspirational and motivational."
Her poetry intervention research also won an honorable mention at the 2009 Research ShowCASE.
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