The Benefits of Caregiving
Look On the Bright Side
We all know the statistics: The typical family caregiver is a woman in her late 40s taking care of elderly parents or in-laws while juggling a full-time job and children about to leave the nest. She is stressed out, exhausted and may be suffering from depression. Caregiving is a burden she must bear.
But the face of the family caregiver has another side, one in which just a few studies have been done. In the past, the personal benefits or rewards of caregiving have been overshadowed by the toll it takes. These studies, however, indicate there is an upside.
What Are the Gains?
In a 2014 survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, 83 percent of caregivers viewed caregiving as a positive experience.¹ Caregivers taking part in a study conducted by Lisa Feldman, a Boston University epidemiologist, described the psychological and mental rewards of caregiving as feeling their lives have more purpose and more personal satisfaction. Many cited that caregiving brought their family closer together.² Now, in addition to the term “caregiver burden” used by gerontologists and psychologists, “caregiver gain” has entered their lexicon.
And there is more. Since the average caregiver is on his or her feet most of the day—bending, lifting, walking—there are physical benefits to caregiving. The daily caregiving activities of bathing, dressing and moving a loved one and manipulating heavy or cumbersome medical equipment can build strength and stamina. These activities, done on a consistent basis, help improve the caregiver’s physical health.
Juggling schedules, paying bills, keeping up with medication times and doses as well as talking to healthcare and insurance professionals can have cognitive benefits for the caregiver. These mental activities help sharpen the mind and improve memory.
Accentuate the Positive
It is not unusual for the strain of caregiving to cause simultaneous positive and negative effects. Reports indicate, however, that caregivers who dwell on the positive aspects of caregiving show lower levels of depression.³
Caregiving is far from easy. Pablo Casals, the famous cellist and composer, once said, “The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.” Certainly caregivers are doing plenty of caring. Whether they see it as a burden or a benefit is what determines how well they fare.
¹ American Psychological Association. "Positive Aspects of Caregiving."
² The New York Times."Caregiving's Hidden Benefits."