The Rewards of Being a Family Caregiver

I have noticed an abundance of articles about the stress and burden that goes with the role of being a caregiver. I have to assume responsibility for writing and speaking about this topic. It occurred to me we don’t spend enough time highlighting the positive and rewarding aspects that can come from being a caregiver for a family member.

The comments I will make in this article are as a result of my personal experience as a caregiver for my father and friends and from my professional experience as a medical social worker. I recognize that all caregiver experiences are unique to the caregiver and the person being cared for. There are always good moments and times of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. I had these during my role as a caregiver as well.

The quality of the caregiver experience is influenced by a multitude of factors including the type of relationship between the caregiver and person being cared for, the nature and frequency of the help that is needed, the ability of the caregiver to do what is needed and be available, and the sense of appreciation the caregiver feels.

 

Here are some potential highlights that can occur in you role as a caregiver for a family member:

Enhances or Repairs Personal Relationships

Your role as a caregiver for a family member offers the opportunity to spend more time together. It can create moments for more talks, increased intimacy and candor, and repairing relationships that may have had past unresolved issues. It can help you redefine your relationship in meaningful ways and discuss future mutual goals and expectations.

Personal Satisfaction

Many of us feel good about ourselves when we believe we have made a difference in the lives of people that we love or care about. Caregiving by definition offers the opportunity to offer physical and emotional support to a loved one needing help. Your role as an advocate can impact the quality of life for a loved one and can help ensure they get the proper level of care and support. It also can be personally affirming when you feel you are helping someone who has helped you in the past.

Self Reflection and Growth

The process of caring for someone who is incapacitated in some way or dying and needs help can cause the caregiver to reflect on his/her own beliefs about many things. This may include questions regarding what or who brings quality and meaning to your life? What are your beliefs about death and what happens when you die? It can also result in reexamination about who you value in your life and what if anything do you want to do in terms of changing those relationships. Finally, caregiving causes many people to ask themselves what they want to do with their remaining days. Some people also surprise themselves in terms of how they face their role as caregiver finding physical and emotional reserves they had not realized they had.

Sense of Accomplishment

Many people report a feeling of self accomplishment in their role as a caregiver. They feel good about being there in meaningful ways for a loved one. The direct involvement also helps them feel they did all they possibly could for a loved one and hence they do not express regrets about things they did not do after they loved one has died. There is also a sense of accomplishment in terms of the daily creative aspects of caregiving that arise when you find a special connection with a loved one or help them to do something today they did not do yesterday. Knowing that your efforts have brought a quality of life (even if only for a brief time) for a loved offers a strong sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction.

Connecting With Others

The caregiver role can connect you with others in important and meaningful ways. Being a member of the caregiving team with others brings you closer. Personal highlights with family members can result in time together, exchanging stories and feelings, and being there to emotionally and physically support each other and a loved one. We should never underestimate the importance of our connection with other caregivers. This can occur in person, in support groups, or online in chat rooms or on caregiver websites. Bonding with someone who understands what you are going through because they have been there creates a powerful connection. Their empathy and support is born from a shared personal experience that can help strengthen you at times of self doubt, isolation, or loneliness.

Written by Iris Waichler
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. Role Reversal is the winner of 5 major book awards. Ms. Waichler has been a medical social worker and patient advocate for 40 years. She has done freelance writing, counseling, and workshops on patient advocacy and healthcare related issues for 17 years. Find out more at her website http://iriswaichler.wpengine.com

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11 Comments

  1. I have been a family caregiver to my husband, who is now healthy again. And now to my mother who lives with us. No matter what stress I have been through, she is the one who I would never want to think for a moment that she is a burden! So many complain about being a caregiver. I have been in this roll for 15 years. I would not trade one moment. I am proud to be the person who takes care of her. I am honored and blessed to be a caregiver daughter. God puts us in place to either teach us, and or, because we are best suited! I am going to continue my role for as long as I am needed. And what a great way to spend so much time with the only Mom I will ever have! She is 85 and I am so proud of her strength and her courage. She has been through so much. Please know that your role as a caregiver is a blessing to the person or persons you are caring for. I will do all I can to make my mom’s life the best it can be till it’s her time to go. I love my role, I love my mom, and I love a good challenge!

    Reply
  2. I have been a family caregiver to my husband, who is now healthy again. And now to my mother who lives with us. No matter what stress I have been through, she is the one who I would never want to think for a moment that she is a burden! So many complain about being a caregiver. I have been in this roll for 15 years. I would not trade one moment. I am proud to be the person who takes care of her. I am honored and blessed to be a caregiver daughter. God puts us in place to either teach us, and or, because we are best suited! I am going to continue my role for as long as I am needed. And what a great way to spend so much time with the only Mom I will ever have! She is 85 and I am so proud of her strength and her courage. She has been through so much. Please know that your role as a caregiver is a blessing to the person or persons you are caring for. I will do all I can to make my mom’s life the best it can be till it’s her time to go. I love my role, I love my mom, and I love a good challenge!

    Reply
  3. I wish a thousand times a day my Mother wasn’t sick and needed me as one of her caregivers . But having said that this is without a doubt the most rewarding time of my life. I mean there are times of aggravation, feelings of guilt, and times when I just get mad as hell. Not at my Mother but at the Alzheimers. But when those moments of unconditional closeness that you share with each other happens you just know that you are doing exactly what the stars were aligned for you to do. Everyone’s situations are different but for me I’m sure I’m doing the right thing . #ENDALZHEIMERS

    Reply
  4. I wish a thousand times a day my Mother wasn’t sick and needed me as one of her caregivers . But having said that this is without a doubt the most rewarding time of my life. I mean there are times of aggravation, feelings of guilt, and times when I just get mad as hell. Not at my Mother but at the Alzheimers. But when those moments of unconditional closeness that you share with each other happens you just know that you are doing exactly what the stars were aligned for you to do. Everyone’s situations are different but for me I’m sure I’m doing the right thing . #ENDALZHEIMERS

    Reply
  5. few comments here

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  6. few comments here

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  7. Caregiving for my two terminally ill parents was hard, heart wrenching, tiring, mind boggling, emotionally and physically draining…..and I’d do it again in a heart beat! My two young children and I got to know Grandma and Grandpa in a way that nobody else could. My children learned invaluable lessons of empathy, love and devotion. I learned that I’m a lot tougher than I thought. I miss you Mom and Dad.

    Reply
  8. Caregiving for my two terminally ill parents was hard, heart wrenching, tiring, mind boggling, emotionally and physically draining…..and I’d do it again in a heart beat! My two young children and I got to know Grandma and Grandpa in a way that nobody else could. My children learned invaluable lessons of empathy, love and devotion. I learned that I’m a lot tougher than I thought. I miss you Mom and Dad.

    Reply

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