Why You Should Be A Caregiver


Why You Should Be A Caregiver


Caring for a family member or friend isn’t easy. Being a family caregiver requires unwavering dedication and hard work. It can also be physically and mentally draining. 

However challenging, caregiving does come with some noteworthy benefits. In fact, in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, American caregivers said they found the experience to be far more rewarding (88 percent) than stressful (32 percent). Likewise, a separate survey by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) found that 83 percent of caregivers found the experience to be rewarding. Positive aspects of caregiving can include personal growth, gratitude, finding meaning, and more.

Whether you're facing the possibility of becoming a family caregiver or you're an entrenched caregiver in need of some words of encouragement, we’ve captured some of the positive aspects and potential benefits of your loving commitment.

1. You won’t have to worry about the type of care your loved one is receiving. 

There is satisfaction in knowing that your loved one is receiving excellent care. We all have high expectations of the level of care we want our loved ones to receive. We also want to make sure that their care wishes are not only fulfilled but that they're executed with respect and dignity. By providing that care yourself, you take a proactive role in ensuring your loved one is getting the care they deserve. 

2. Caregiving can bring you closer to your loved one.

Even if your relationship to your loved one has always been good, caring for them can take your relationship to a new level. Devoting time to caring for someone naturally lends itself to getting to know one another better, and you may uncover new stories and insights about your loved one.

3. Caregiving can give you a sense of purpose. 

Caregiving inspires self-confidence. When you take care of someone who can’t care for themself you realize how much you can do. You’ll learn new skills and may even push the limits of what you thought you were capable of doing.

4. You can support your loved one in a setting that's comfortable for them.

There are three reasons why your loved one may be more comfortable with a family caregiver. First, some people do not do well transitioning to new living situations. Allowing them to stay in their own home or a family member’s home can be less stressful, especially for individuals with dementia, because of the familiarity. Second, loved ones tend to be more comfortable with a family member providing hands-on care. And lastly, family members may know a loved one’s likes and dislikes, routines, and preferences, so there is a much smaller learning curve.

5. You may gain a different perspective on life. 

Being a caregiver offers a not-so-gentle reminder that life is short, and it’s important to focus on the things that are most meaningful to you. In fact, two out of three respondents to an Alzheimer’s Association survey reported that they felt like being a family caregiver gave them a better perspective on life in general.

6. Being a family caregiver can be good for you physically. 

Because the average family caregiver is on his or her feet most of the day—bending, lifting, walking—there are physical benefits to caregiving. Studies have shown that high-intensity caregivers perform better on tests that measure such things as grip strength, rising from a chair, and walking pace. In addition, a recent study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior found that people who occasionally watched and cared for others lived longer than people who didn’t.

7. Caring for someone releases dopamine and makes us feel good.

According to Dr. Waguih William IsHak, a professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai, acts of kindness release dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain that can give us a feeling of euphoria. This feel-good brain chemical is credited with causing what's known as a "helper's high." In addition to boosting oxytocin and dopamine, acts of kindness can also increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.

Ultimately, family caregiving becomes as much about you as it does about your loved one. It’s a tough job, but it’s nice to know that out of the struggles and challenges can come so many positives. 

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