Portrait of an Artist: Jan Shriver


Portrait of an Artist: Jan Shriver

(Editor's Note: In anticipation of our Fourth Annual Caregiving Art Show, we're proud to profile Jan, a Caregiving.com blogger who cares for her mom, who will display her artwork during our show, which begins on Sunday. You can connect with Jan on her profile page: @janshriver.)

The grand prize in Caregiving.com's 18th birthday celebration was the piece created and donated by Jan. The grand prize in Caregiving.com's 18th birthday celebration was this piece created and donated by Jan.

Jan Shriver’s artwork is delicate, precise and saturated with color.

She’s often inspired by the intricate style of the medieval period, and her paintings are a showcase for exquisite calligraphy and attention to detail. They reflect her training as an Ornamental Horticulturist and also the reality of her life as caregiver for her 84-year-old mother.

The details matter with both disciplines, whether you’re viewing a lab specimen under a microscope or trying to juggle two households in two different states while caring for a parent with dementia.

Jan has been a full-time caregiver since 2012, when she took a leave of absence from her job to live with her mother in Florida. Her husband stayed in Ohio to tend to the house and the four cats.

His attitude has made all the difference, Jan says. “In addition to the flexibility in our lifestyle, he can take whatever my mother dishes out and make sense from it, most of the time.”

Jan adds that there’s no way they could have planned for this time in their lives together. “It currently works,” she observes. “We have no long-term plan or expectations, other than to see where it goes.”

And that’s impossible to predict. Jan’s mom is in good physical shape and “little old people can hang around a lot longer than you expect,” Jan says. “The human body is incredibly resilient.”

Jan and her mom. Jan and her mom.

A pragmatic approach also helps. “I put caregiving my mother in the same category as when I was a caregiver to my children. If you have the same expectations for one, they work for the other.

“I didn’t expect my life to be ‘normal’ (childless) once my kids came. It’s a special time and it won’t last forever, and they are your focus and you can make the most of it. It’s the same with caregiving my mother.”

Her art offers a creative outlet that fits with what her mom needs right now.

“The painting I’ve been doing is inexpensive and very portable, which makes it great to transport between both houses,” Jan says. “I can finish a piece in about an hour, which is sometimes all I get in a day when my mother isn’t wanting my attention.

Jan was inspired to make painting more of a priority when she discovered the Caregiving.com Create Group. “I had been just fiddling around, and here was Denise challenging us to post something every week. I’ve pushed myself to have something new to put out there, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have done that without the encouragement.”

She’s also submitting two pieces in the fourth annual Caregiving Art Show.

Jan says the finding the virtual community was a lifesaver. “After being with my mother all day long, day after day, and not having intelligent reciprocal conversation, I just started feeling crazy. I was getting desperate for some kind of connection when I found Caregiving.com. I felt like I fit right in and was accepted.”

Jan is deeply touched – over and over again – by the members of the Caregiving.com community. “They’re giving and sacrificial and resourceful and loving. When I read their stories, I’m overwhelmed at the human spirit and the capacity to survive.”

She’s been surprised too, by the unexpected gifts of caring for her mom.

“Although I’m looking after my mom 24/7, I finally have some time for myself – the first time in my adult life. I’m free to do so many things, in addition to seeing my daughter who lives nearby. She’s due to have our first grandchild at Christmas and had I not been caring for my mom, I would never be able to enjoy the extended time (with them) I’m anticipating now.”

Jan’s sister also lives in Florida, and Jan credits her as a “witty, amazing lifeline” who, along with their husbands, has made this caregiving journey possible.

“My husband will probably tell you I’m the happiest I’ve been for most of our married life.”

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