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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.

11 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.

Read: Celebrating the Family Caregiver

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.

6 Benefits of Being a Professional Caregiver

Make no mistake, caregiving is hard work. It requires dedication, commitment, responsibility and integrity. The scope of caregiver responsibilities can be exhaustive and the benefits of being a caregiver can be significant. What motivates paid caregivers to choose the work they do? Let’s look at some of the benefits of caregiving and some examples from real caregivers.

1. The Desire to Help

Caregiving is a helping profession. Providing caregiving to a senior in their home brings enormous benefit to the caregiver and the family member. Events such as illness, accident or slow decline can cause the need for help in the home. To assist someone is to understand a person’s needs and meet or exceed those needs. The trust and appreciation that develops is rewarding and empowering for both caregiver and family member.

Often, the presence of a caregiver can allow someone to remain in their own home avoiding assisted living or nursing home care. Fostering independence and improving someone’s quality of life is the goal of caregiving. Depending on the situation this can take many forms, from maximum functional assistance to companionship and socialization.

Desiree, one of Home Care Assistant’s caregivers puts it this way:

"Being a caregiver is such an honor! It’s all about putting away my needs to assist someone. Knowing that a smile on my face can bring joy and happiness to someone else is priceless. The moments when I can reflect back and see how I’ve helped someone is what caregiving is all about."

2. Diversity of Client Experience

Home care caregivers experience a wide variety of clients with complex needs. There is no “one size fits all” situation. Caregivers have the ability to adapt to different lifestyles, backgrounds, races, and disabilities. This requires putting personal preferences aside to connect and adapt to the person. A skill that more of us could use!

3. Learning New Skills

Depending on the tasks a caregiver is allowed to do in their state, learning new skills is just part of the job. Caregivers do everything from running errands to checking blood pressure, to helping clients improve functioning.

Training opportunities allow caregivers to hone their skills. They learn how to deal with dementia, activities of daily living, transfers, and companionship. These are lifelong skills that transfer to all aspects of a caregiver’s life.

4. Flexibility

Some people don’t want to sit at a desk! Caregiving is an active job. It also involves working with different clients and families at different times. Many caregivers enjoy making their own hours and designating a schedule that works best for them.

Some home care workers prefer part-time, some full time. Others prefer mornings or nights and weekends. Most agencies will work with caregivers to accommodate their preferences while still meeting the needs of clients.

5. Appreciation

Caregivers relieve family stress. This allows family members to take a break from caregiving duties. They also can allow a client to remain independent at home while improving the quality of their life. Here are some examples of real caregivers and their positive experiences with clients and family members.

Cassandra from Home Care Assistance has a perfect example of how a caregiver can make a significant impact on someone’s life:

“Cassandra was asked to work with another client for a few days. This senior recently lost her husband and was struggling to perform daily tasks like bathing and grooming. Thanks to Cassandra’s encouragement, the senior began doing these activities and more in a matter of days! This included making and committing to doctor’s appointments, which the senior had not attended in a long time. Cassandra not only coordinates these appointments with the senior but escorts her to them as well. Her top priority is making sure her clients always feel safe and comfortable.”

Diana, another caregiver talks about the mutual benefit of helping a client become more self-sufficient while improving her self-esteem:

“Other things I find [important when] working with clients is making them their favorite meals often and giving them little treats of their favorite desserts.

For those who don't struggle with dressing, dressing them up even if they are not going out raises their self-esteem, especially if they receive compliments from family or guests.

Last Sunday, my client was complimented by some young ladies who said she was dressed so well she should appear in Vogue magazine and she was over the moon!”

6. Variety

Caregiving tasks can be as varied as the clients themselves. Diversity of tasks keeps caregivers stimulated and can make the job more exciting. One moment a caregiver needs to run errands; another time someone needs help in the shower or with dressing. At other times the unexpected happens and caregivers have to think and respond on their feet and on the fly.

Edith shows how a caregiver sometimes needs to respond in ways that are unpredictable and unexpected:

“It was Tuesday, January 9th, 2018. The weather channel was reporting some rain, but Edith arrived at the care community where her client lived without incident. She even remembers thinking that they were blessed to have rain after the fires around the area. But around 4:00 am, one of the resident’s sons came to inform everyone that the facility was flooding.

It was covered in mud, water, debris, and even fallen trees, one of which fell right on top of Edith’s car. Shortly after, they found themselves with no electricity, no phone service and trapped in the complex.

They realized the full scope of the tragedy when they were informed that no one would be able to rescue them since a huge mudslide was blocking the roads. Edith knew she and the other two caregivers in the facility had to take care of the residents and make sure they were safe.

They took care of the whole floor, making sure the residents were not panicking or frightened. Of course, everyone was frightened, including Edith, but she knew her priority was in giving aid to the residents. Edith persevered until everyone was finally evacuated on Thursday afternoon.”

As you can see by the examples above, caregiving is both demanding and rewarding. If you would like to learn more about the amazing difference caregivers make in people’s lives, read their stories here.

About the Author(s)

Ashley Krollenbrock has been a caregiver for her mom for 10 years. She has her Masters of Public Health and JD with a concentration in Health Policy & Law. Ashley has done legal work for two state protection and advocacy agencies for people with disabilities. She is passionate about disability justice, aging justice, health equity, and aging in place. Ashley blogs at themillennialmatriarch.com, and her goal is to empower families to keep their aging loved ones at home by sharing her story and practical knowledge. Ashley lives in Oregon with her wife and mom, and when she’s not writing or caregiving she loves to travel, garden, and hike with her dogs.

Amanda Lambert is the owner and president of Lambert Care Management, LLC which provides care management for older and disabled adults. She is the co-author of, Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). She has worked for over 20 years in the senior-related industry including mental health, marketing and guardianship. She has a passion for topics related to health, wellness and resilience as we age.

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