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The Joy of Caregiving

Photo: father and daughter on a dock

Whether through casual chatter between friends or coverage on the evening news, caregiving often gets a bad rap. Yes, there is an emotional toll to caregiving for a person with dementia or frailty; however, there are plenty of joys of caregiving as well.

When taking care of a parent, spouse or friend, many negative feelings — anger, grief, regret, frustration and sadness — can bubble to the surface. These emotions talked about and associated with caregiving for good reasons – they are difficult and undeniable. No matter what level of eldercare you provide, there are also numerous joys of caregiving.

Caregivers Increase Their Time Management Skills

There is nothing like looking after another individual’s needs to help you with your own time management. You may learn to allow more time for certain appointments. This way, you and your aging parent have more time to reach these offices. Or maybe you book appointments located within the same vicinity on the same afternoon to keep driving time to a minimum. You may also gain a better understanding of how much allotted time is necessary for tasks. What can be done in 20 minutes and what needs a couple of hours to complete?

Caregivers Develop Better Organizational Abilities

Working hands-on with an aging senior can improve your own organizational abilities. When faced with juggling the many associated tasks of caregiving, along with the – sometimes precarious – balancing act required with your own life and family, providing elder care can help you become a far better multi-tasker. For example, I moved from using sticky notes for everything to developing a dedicated filing system for my parents’ needs. Taking this one step further, I even bought a small filing cabinet and color-coded the files … blue for healthcare, red for financial and so on. Trust me, this was a far better system!

Enhanced Family Dynamics

Should you be working with siblings while providing eldercare, this can create an excellent opportunity to bond with a brother or sister. Improved communications between siblings is another related aspect. We must all learn to compromise for the sake of your parent. Remember, when the family is arguing about Mom or Dad’s personal affairs, nothing gets done. Caregiving can become a family’s greatest gift. By sharing the workload, you may form a deep relationship with a sibling.

Improved Relationships with Your Parent, Spouse or Friend

Decreasing physical and mental health in someone you are caring for doesn’t have to be a drawback. My own father’s Alzheimer’s disease, for example, allowed me to become closer with him. Dad was always an intensely private man; however, his dementia knocked down those protective walls he had built up around him and allowed me in. For the first time ever, I was able to hug dad and hear his approval. If your parent remains able to communicate, he/she may open up to you and tell you about issues once held private.

Greater Self-Awareness

Just what are your own capabilities as a caregiver? When helping an aging senior, there is no shortage of accompanying responsibilities. You may provide day-to-day support as a Guardian or report on financial matters as a Trustee. You may shuttle mom or dad to doctor’s appointments, pick up medications, offer a manicure/pedicure or provide your parent a bath. When you can accomplish something (specifically something outside your own comfort zone), it can make you a stronger and more self-confident individual.

A Better Realization of What is Most Important

Providing care to a senior can be overwhelming at times. When you can delegate caring to another individual, you can take a break for yourself. Even if this is only 30 minutes having coffee with a good friend or soaking in a soothing bubble bath, you may be able to stop and provide yourself some much-needed self-care. By recognizing how important self-care is, you may be better able to continue to practice this in the future.

Read 15 Minutes Alone as a Caregiver: Protecting Your Own Time

Sense of Paying-Back

After so many years of mom or dad caring for you, you may feel pleased to now return the favor. Do not consider this as your “obligation” … instead, consider this as your “right” and “honor.”

Yes, there are irrefutable negatives associated with caregiving; however, as you can see, there are also many joys of caregiving. Recognize these and become a better caregiver.

About The Author

As a former co-caregiver, Rick Lauber helped and supported his own aging parents. His mother had Parkinson's and Leukemia and his father had Alzheimer's. Rick learned that caregiving is challenging and used writing to personally cope.His stories became two books, Caregiver's Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide.

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