Caregiving is a difficult task, there’s no question about that. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are roughly 41.8 million adults, more than 1 in 5 adults, who are caregivers in the U.S.* Often times we hear about the hardships when it comes to taking care of a family member, a loved one or the elderly, so let’s present the rewards of being a caregiver!
A survey from the Pew Research Center reported that 88% of caregivers found their job rewarding over being stressful. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a daunting job, it just shows that the positive outweighs the negative. Let’s take a look at what 2 experts in the caregiving field had to say when speaking about the rewards of caregiving:
- You appreciate life more. Sometimes we get so busy just living life day to day that we forget to appreciate the things in life that matter. Christine Consiglio, a medical social worker in the care management department at White Plains Hospital in New York, states that “caregiving gives you time to refocus on the priorities in life.”
- You get the sense of feeling needed. If you are a caregiver to someone, especially in a nursing care facility, helping out those in need can be considered the best part of a senior’s day. The connection you have helps to make them not feel alone.
“From personal experience here at [the Nathaniel] Witherell, to see the joy my staff brings to residents’ lives, how we have changed lives, it is very rewarding. It makes us feel very warm inside. That connection is very special.” — Nadia Benson
- You can grow a friendship. Similar to refocusing on what matters in your life, caregivers have reported that moving into this role, especially for a loved one, can help reconnect. “It’s a time where a person reflects on their life and tells stories,” says Consiglio. “It’s special for caregivers to receive that information and pass it on to future generations.”
- You make ‘aging in place’ possible. Recently, more and more people are wanting to age in their home vs. going to live in a nursing home facility, and this wouldn’t be possible without caregivers. Nadia Benson, the director of nursing services at a short-term rehabilitation facility, The Nathaniel Witherell, in Greenwich, Connecticut says “to know that they’re not in a facility and they know you are providing that care would give me a sense of pride.”
- There are health benefits. While caregiving can be stressful at times, studies have shown that there could be health benefits that accrue over time. Some include lower mortality rates, stronger physical performance and better memory.
- You establish family traditions. The person you care for might have a certain tradition that they do with their family, as a caregiver you might get to be part of that. If you are a caregiver with children, your children could be watching what you do and they could want to follow in your footsteps.
- You feel a sense of accomplishment. “We all take pride in overcoming obstacles. It can be stressful when you climb that mountain, but when you can say I did it you can be proud of yourself,” Consiglio says.
- You can learn or improve certain skills. Some consider caregiving to parenting. You learn how to organize, dress, physically support and monitor someone. This takes practice and over time you can master at one, or many of these things!
A poll has reported that 91% of those caring for someone with dementia believe that the experience they had helps them think about the future and how they will want to be taken care of once the time comes.
- It makes you feel good. This goes hand in hand with benefit of feeling needed. Caregivers give me so much of their time and energy to others that it can make them feel good. “It’s a feeling of love and value that you can’t put a price tag on,” Consiglio says.
*According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP’s Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report.