Find positive social communities of other people going through the same thing. This one can be tricky, but you want a network of people validating your experience, while uplifting you. You are not in a space to be judged.

With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. Caring for elderly or aging parents can be particularly stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. What are stress management strategies that people use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate stress when caring for our aging parents? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, and mental health experts, who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Erica Curcio.

Erica Curcio is an Art Therapist and Licensed Counselor that specializes in working with persons living with dementia and their Care Partners. She owns Art Therapists at Home, a Boston, MA based therapy practice that brings JOY to the lives of those affected by dementia. Her therapy practice offers in person art therapy to people living at home with dementia and virtual care partner counseling, consulting and art workshops. You can learn more at

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!

Creating art became a part of my life in my teens when I took a chance on an oil painting class. I like to say I learned to paint before I knew how to draw. From that experience I learned the greatness of creating art and I couldn’t live without it in my life. At the time I didn’t realize the expressive qualities that I now know to be self-expression. I went on to earn a Bachelors in Interior Design, couldn’t find a job in the 2008 recession, and then cake decorating fell into my lap. Through the cake decorating experience I was once again met with those expressive qualities. Something felt so right about creating cakes and making people feel good about receiving their confectionary pieces of art. I knew I needed to follow that feeling again and went on to earn a Master’s in Art Therapy. It was in my first internship program that I had my first encounter with dementia. I was initially scared. I didn’t know how to communicate with someone who had dementia. Within a few weeks, a woman in her 90s showed me how to communicate with art. From that transformative moment to today I have spent building myself as a dementia specialist in art therapy. In working with caregivers and leading speaking engagements, I want people to understand that there’s still a spark inside of all of us. Sometimes all it might take is an art supply to light the flame.

What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?

Smile more at older adults. Take time to have conversations with people you don’t know. Go with your gut.

I see now the value of conversations with older adults could have had on me. I was so concerned with myself and getting to the next thing, that I didn’t see the value of the here and now. The present moment has so much to teach us. Talking with older adults has taught me this. There are conversations and stories that come back to my mind, people who have now passed that spark in my head. And I think about that person and smile.. What an honor to know that person and hear their story.

None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?

There are a few teachers in my life who I felt really saw me. I think those people have allowed me to see myself, as well. They gave me opportunities to speak and present in class. Teachers make our world a better place and we don’t thank them enough. They often don’t see their impact because it happens later in life. So to all the teachers who truly saw my potential, Thank you.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?

In 2024 I’m looking to speak more about the fascinating world of art therapy and dementia to organizations that don’t get to experience client stories firsthand. I’m also going to start offering intensive sessions for caregivers of people living with dementia. They’ll learn how to create art with their person with dementia, as well as how to use it for their own self care. We need to do more to support our caregivers.

Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?

When I think of stress, I have a somatic experience. My shoulders tighten, I start to feel overwhelmed and unable to make decisions. As a licensed therapist I know that stress can be both good and bad. It can sit on both of those domains, or push heavily in one direction. This might not make sense, as we are taught stress is inherently bad. “Bad” stress can be all encompassing and cause feelings of anxiety and depression. “Good” stress can be a motivator for some people. It can be the reason someone makes changes in their life.

In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?

Chronic stress comes from not being able to manage stress. More and more people are showing signs of building stress on top of stress. For imagery purposes: Fill a cup with water halfway, that water represents stress. Now add a life event that is challenging to that cup with more water. And another, and another.. What happens? The cup overflows. That overflow is our stress flowing out, not being properly emptied from the cup. Now, add going to therapy. In therapy you talk about that major life event. You go over all your feelings. What happens in the cup? You pour some of that water out. You create more room in the cup for something stressful to happen. When that event does happen, (because it will) your cup doesn’t overflow this time. It just adds water to the cup. When we learn in therapy to talk about our lives in a productive way, we release stress.

What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?

You might feel tightness in your body. Tight shoulders, hips, and back are often the body parts I hear about the most in therapy sessions with clients. You might also find yourself crying more often. You might be living in a fight or flight response and become reactive to anyone that tries to help you. You might yell. You also could become more isolated, having awareness of your responses and not liking the person you are becoming.

Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?

Stress can absolutely be good for us. We can have feelings of exhilaration and that actually is stress on the body. Where I find it to be good is when it’s a motivator for change. A person comes to the realization that something needs to change in their life and the life they’re living is not healthy. It can courageously bring people into the therapy space, where they can learn to manage their stress.

Let’s now focus more on the stress of caring for elderly or aging parents. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out in order to address it. Can you help articulate a few reasons why caring for our aging parents can be so stressful?

First of all no one goes to school to become a caregiver. With everything you need to know to support an elderly parent it seems to me that it’s a crash course. It really is the most stressful position I have encountered. It’s unpredictable, happens in a moment of crisis and your whole world and existence very quickly becomes about another person. There are a lot of feelings and considerations, guilt being one of them. Trying to make sure another person, who might not be able to speak for themselves anymore, is hard. Balancing their feeling independent with your own observations that they’re not doing things the “right way” can be challenging to watch.

Can you share with our readers your “5 Things You Can Do To Reduce Stress When Caring For Your Elderly Or Aging Parents”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Education — take advantage of all the wonderful free resources online. There are many grant funded programs that provide education into what your person might be going through
  2. Empathy will get you FAR! Less struggles will occur when you can remember that this person was 100% independent until right at this moment. Try to keep them feeling independent, include them in decision-making with their care. When people feel in control and part of the conversation, you’re less likely to have fights. If someone speaks about not wanting a change in their life, be curious. Ask why.
  3. Invest in Therapy — Create a space for yourself to process everything that is happening. Think about emptying that cup. This is the best place to do it.
  4. Remember you have needs — This can be very challenging for people. You STILL MATTER. Your needs matter. You need to get those needs met. Maybe it won’t look like it did before, but time needs to be carved out for you.
  5. Find positive social communities of other people going through the same thing. This one can be tricky, but you want a network of people validating your experience, while uplifting you. You are not in a space to be judged.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?

I am an avid listener of This American Life, a podcast about life. I also enjoy listening to podcasts about seeing our own potential and growth.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to create a space where people of all ages and backgrounds can create together.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

I offer great resources on my website about dementia, aging and art therapy.

You can find more info at and

follow me on instagram @thetravelingarttherapist or LinkedIn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.