Good Things Come From Caregiving

When you’re in the midst of the endless marathon of care, it’s hard to believe there might be some positive aspects to this ordeal.

Surprisingly there are numerous research articles that assure us – based on surveys of family caregivers/informal carers – that there are significant benefits to being a caregiver to a family member or friend.

If you’re as surprised by this as I, then read on…

It’s true that it’s not benefitting you financially, and you certainly don’t feel like it’s benefitting you physically… what with sleepless nights, endless stress, unexpected calls from emergency room doctors, long commutes to spend time with your loved one in their home, bending and lifting and those activities that are needed to assist people who aren’t as mobile as they once were…

However, we may learn from the survey respondents to recognize the positives they identified.

They talk about the satisfaction they receive from doing the loving thing, acting with compassion, caring for another. It makes them feel good. It’s the opposite of the “me first” philosophy in our world today.

So take a moment to let yourself feel that glow of satisfaction. You’re letting love be your guide.

Caregivers in the surveys talk about the satisfaction they receive from knowing that their loved one is getting the best possible care. That’s because they’re honouring their loved one’s wishes, and they’re caring not just for their physical needs, but also for their mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

If you haven’t done so already today, stop and tell yourself that you are ensuring the very best possible care for your loved one. You truly are!

The survey responders talk about strengthened relationships with the one they’re caring for. That may not always be the case, but hopefully you too are finding that in the hours you spend with your loved one, you’re able to talk about ‘stuff’ – the stuff that was avoided when you were younger, the hurts that were never healed, the misunderstandings that never got worked through.

A young woman who was sent, rather unwillingly, to care for her grandmother over the summer, heard stories from the older woman that no one in her family had heard. She came to know a totally different person from the rather colorless old lady she thought of as her grandmother.

How has your relationship with your loved one deepened since you became a ‘conscious’ caregiver? Treasure whatever you recognize as a positive change in that relationship.

And remember that you’re privileged to walk your Christian parent to the edge of time, to keep them safe in the battle, to escort them to Christ’s “well done, good and faithful servant.”

The caregivers who responded to the surveys talked about things like discovering in themselves strengths and abilities they never knew they had. About building coping strategies. And how that helped to build greater self-esteem.

You may never hear the appreciation you would want to hear from your loved one, but stand taller because you know you are a better, stronger and more compassionate person today than you were at the start of this marathon.

For some caregivers there was a positive spin-off when they involved children or spouse or other siblings in caring for the loved one. The family drew closer together as they shared the burden of love.

Have you found ways to involve other members of your family? They too need to experience the satisfaction that comes from compassionate caregiving.

Surprisingly, it seems there are also physical benefits.

The researchers found that the caregiver’s physical strength and muscle tone were improved (in some cases) by all those physical demands of bending, turning someone in bed, helping them stand or sit. This was particularly apparent in women over the age of 65 who were caring for an older person.

Beyond all of this, as caregivers who are marked by faith, we find our spiritual life deepening because our need presses us into God’s strength again and again. But also we experience the satisfaction of knowing we are keeping the 5th commandment, to honour our parents (or the family member who needs our care).  We’re inspired by the example of Jesus, who even in His extreme agony on the cross, made the effort to entrust His mother’s care to His closest disciple, John.

May you be blessed today as you reflect on the ways in which this marathon of care is actually a source of grace and blessing for you.

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