We often hear about the sacrifices caregivers make, but we don’t hear enough about the benefits of being a caregiver. Caregivers gain a lot from their role. In fact, many caregivers feel that caregiving has helped shape who they are. These benefits make us better caregivers and they make us more balanced people. When we keep them in mind, we remember the bigger picture and focus on what’s most important in life.
5 Ways Being a Caregiver Positively Impacts Your Life
Keep the following benefits in mind to help you avoid burnout. As a caregiver:
1. You will know who your true friends and family are.
Being a caregiver can be lonely, but it will also show you who your true friends are. They’re the ones who are willing to offer help or keep you company. They’re the people who will listen to you talk about the difficult moments in life. They will celebrate your victories alongside you. When someone is there for you in your most challenging moments, you’ll develop a deep trust. Caregiving helps you realize which relationships are your best and strengthens them even further.
Takeaway Tip: Sometimes it can be hard for your loved ones to know how to be there for you. If you’re feeling isolated, learn to ask for help from a trusted friend or family member. Tell them you’re feeling lonely and ask if you can go out for coffee or even take a walk together. Your loved ones may not reach out because they’re worried about burdening you with more obligations. Make it clear that you appreciate the time you spend together.
2. You won’t have to worry about whether your loved one is receiving good care.
When my mom lived in a nursing home, I felt powerless to improve her care. Even when I liked the people who were working with her, I couldn’t stop worrying about her. It wasn’t possible to see her every day and when she got sick or experienced pain, I felt guilty. I constantly wondered if there was something else I could have done to protect her.
Now, I have peace of mind knowing that my mom is being well-cared for. She still gets sick of course but I don’t have to wonder if I could have done something different to prevent her illnesses. I know what her doctors recommend, and I follow those recommendations. This makes it easier to accept when things don’t go perfectly.
Takeaway Tip: As a caregiver, sometimes you might second guess yourself. Remember, you don’t have to be the best at everything to be the best caregiver for your loved one. Even if you do everything right, people get sick and scary things happen sometimes. It’s easy to blame yourself but you’re not responsible for protecting your loved one from everything. Do your best and treat yourself with compassion.
3. You will become confident in your ability to handle anything.
Caregiving will throw you a lot of curveballs and you’ll serve in a lot of different roles. You will talk to doctors, nurses, case managers, lawyers, and physical therapists. You’ll learn to administer medications and help someone dress, among other new skills. Caregiving will prepare you for curveballs at work, as a parent, and in all areas of life.
Takeaway Tip: Remember, even if you can handle anything, you aren’t responsible for everything. People will notice that you have a good head on your shoulders and may begin to turn to you for help. Helping others is a wonderful thing, but you also need to remember to protect your time. If possible, offer advice and guidance instead of doing things for others. Share what you’ve learned and empower others to achieve their own successes.
4. You will come to understand what you truly value.
When my mom had a stroke, I realized my time with her would someday end. Facing this reality caused me to re-evaluate my priorities. I knew that I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. I knew that I wanted a career doing something meaningful. If I was going to spend 40 hours a week working, I needed to know that my work was enjoyable and making an impact on the world. This shaped the decisions I’ve made and led me to the life I have today.
Takeaway Tip: As caregivers, we burn out when we feel like everything is important and urgent. If you take the time to think about your values and priorities, you’ll have an easier time saying no to things that could drain you. When you’re asked to do something, ask yourself if it aligns with your values. If it doesn’t, you can choose to say no.
5. You will experience the normal rhythms of being a family.
When my mom lived in a nursing home, I felt like she missed out on a lot of the simple but meaningful parts of family life. Now she can sit on the back patio while I work in the garden and we can watch a movie together before bed. We enjoy Sunday brunch and running errands together. We can talk about our days when I get home from work. These everyday moments are part of what make up a good life and being a caregiver has allowed me to enjoy more of them with my mom.
Takeaway Tip: Find a way to spend little moments with your loved one doing everyday activities that you both enjoy.
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout to Reap the Benefits of Being a Caregiver
If you’re a caregiver and live with the person you care for, you will burn out if you feel like you’re always on duty. Don’t make everything about caregiving. Allow yourself to have a simple dinner with your loved one without worrying about their needs. Reframe your thinking and try to enjoy experiences for what they are.
It’s easy to get caught up in your responsibilities but caregiving isn’t only about the day-to-day care we provide. It’s about connection and sharing a life with the person you care for. Just like you don’t want to spend every moment as a caregiver, your loved one doesn’t want to spend every moment being taken care of. They want to experience life with you beyond the things you do for them. To me, this is one of the greatest benefits of caregiving. It gives you the opportunity to experience the joys of being a family.
To avoid caregiver burnout, apply for Home Care Assistance’s Caregiver Recharge Grant. Each quarter, this grant provides 25 family caregivers with 48 hours of free care so they can take the time they need to rest and recharge. Apply for the next round, here.