USC Upstate, Charles Lea Center Partner Using Literature to Combat Caregiver Fatigue

February 2, 2018 at 10:13 am

Being a caregiver to a person with a disability is often complex, challenging, and in increasing demand with nearly 60 million individuals in the U.S. who are affected by a disability. This number is projected to increase due to aging of the population, survival of many children with developmental disabilities and childhood illnesses well into adulthood, improved management of chronic illnesses and trauma, and adoption of healthy lifestyles by many.

The University of South Carolina Upstate and the Charles Lea Center are collaborating in a unique approach to integrate humanities content into caregiver communities to improve quality of care and quality of life for people with disabilities and their caregivers throughout Spartanburg County.

USC Upstate will host “The Literature of Caregiving: Fostering a Humanities-Based Culture of Care,” an intensive 10-week workshop to explore literary representations of nurses, therapists, and family caregivers to facilitate empathetic and aesthetic engagement with the challenges and triumphs of caregiver stories of the past and present.  This program is sponsored by South Carolina Humanities, a not-for-profit organization; inspiring, engaging and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture and heritage.

“This project will use lessons learned from literature about caregivers to combat caregiver fatigue,” said Dr. Esther Godfrey, associate professor of English at USC Upstate. “We will build empowering representations of caregiving through two major activities.”

Mike Vasilenko, director of human resources at Charles Lea Center, added, “This is an exciting opportunity for employees of the Charles Lea Center to experience the joy of reading, learning, and continuing education in such a highly recognized institution of higher learning like USC Upstate.”

The workshop is limited to 20 participants with five spaces reserved for Charles Lea Center employees. Participants who will forge connections between literary and disability studies scholars and caregivers through shared reading of three literary works—both fiction and nonfiction—from a range of historical periods. The workshops will be held on Feb. 21 and 28, March 7, 21, and 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Humanities and Performing Arts Center on the USC Upstate main campus.

Dr. Celena E. Kusch, chair of the Department of Languages, Literature, and Composition at USC Upstate, cited the fictional characters of Noah Calhoun as a caregiver in Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook and Hana as a nurse caregiver in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.  Noah’s dedication to his wife reflects the challenging reality many professional and family caregivers face as they deal with the long and slow progression of Alzheimer’s. Hana is a young nurse who serves the Allies in World War II who quickly learns that she must not become emotionally attached to her patients, as she has seen too many young soldiers slip out of her life.

As the 10-week program concludes, a public event will be held in early April targeted to professional and family caregivers throughout the Upstate who are interested in exploring the powerful and important work of caregivers. The USC Upstate English Department faculty will make presentations and select workshop participants to share the lessons they learned from looking at caregivers in literature. More details regarding the April event will be forthcoming.

“Caregiving is often undertaken privately and invisibly, but it demands an incredible emotional and physical commitment to the care of another person,” said Kusch. “By engaging in public discussion about the image of caregivers, we hope to bring greater recognition to caregivers and to empower them to share their experiences with each other.”

For more details or to register for the program, contact Dr. Celena Kusch at 864-503-5850 or ckusch@uscupstate.edu.