Caregiving for an aging senior can lead to many frustrations, stressors, and complaints. Considering the extra work involved with the job, the careful life balance required, and facing the loss of a loved one, caregivers do not always have it easy. But, as the saying goes, “In every dark cloud, there can be a silver lining.”
When providing eldercare for an aging parent, spouse or friend, many negative feelings, including anger, grief, regret, frustration and sadness, can easily bubble to the surface for caregivers. These emotions are the ones typically talked about and associated with caregiving and for good reasons – they are both difficult and undeniable. No matter what level of eldercare you are providing and who you are caring for, one must remember that there are also numerous benefits to providing eldercare – many of these may never fully be realized until your loved one has passed away. Consider these examples:
Increased Time Management Skills: There is nothing like looking after another individual’s needs to help you with your own time management. You may learn to allow more time for certain appointments to give you and your aging parent more opportunity to reach these offices or book neighboring appointments located within the same vicinity on the same afternoon (so as to keep driving time to a minimum). Remember that seniors may walk and react slower than you as well. You may also gain a better understanding of how much allotted time is necessary for tasks. What can be done in 20 minutes, and what needs a couple of hours to complete?
Better Organizational Abilities: When faced with juggling the many associated tasks, along with the balancing act required with your own life and family, caregiving can help you become a far better multi-tasker. For example, I moved from using sticky notes for everything to developing a dedicated filing system for my parents’ needs. Taking this one step further, I even bought a small filing cabinet and color-coded the files … blue for healthcare, green for financial and so on – trust me, this was a far better system!
Enhanced Family Dynamics: Should you be working with siblings while caregiving, doing this can create an excellent opportunity to better bond with a brother or sister. Improved communications between siblings is another related aspect here … you must learn to compromise for the sake of your parent. Caregiving can become a family’s greatest gift, in the fact that, by sharing the workload, you may better bond with a sibling.
Improved Relationships with the Senior: My own father’s Alzheimer’s disease, surprisingly, allowed me to become closer with him. Dad was always an intensely private man; however, his dementia knocked down those protective walls he had built up around him and allowed me in. For the first time ever, I was able to hug Dad and hear his approving grunts. If your parent remains able to communicate, he/she may open up to you and tell you about issues once held private.
Increased Self-Awareness: Just what are your own capabilities as a caregiver? When helping an aging senior, there is no shortage of accompanying responsibilities. You may provide day-to-day support as a Guardian or report on financial matters as a Trustee. You may shuttle Mom or Dad to doctor’s appointments, pick up medications, offer a manicure/pedicure or provide your parent a bath. When you can accomplish something (specifically something outside your own comfort zone), it can make you a stronger and more self-confident individual.
A Better Realization of What is Most Important: Providing care to a senior can be overwhelming at times. When you can delegate caring to another individual, you can take a break for yourself. Even if this is only 30 minutes having coffee with a good friend or soaking in a soothing bubble bath, you may be able to stop and provide yourself some much-needed self-care. With recognizing how important self-care is, you may be better able to continue to practice this in the future.
A Sense of Payback: After so many years of Mom or Dad caring for you, you may feel pleased to now return the favor. Do not consider this as your “obligation” … instead, consider this as your “right”.
So, yes, there are irrefutable negatives associated with caregiving; however, as you can see, there are also many joys. When faced with providing care, you should be looking ahead with anticipation, rather than dread. Do right by your mother, father, friend or spouse and know the same can be said for providing eldercare.
By Rick Lauber
Rick Lauber is a published book author and established freelance writer. Lauber has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (Self-Counsel Press) as valuable resources for prospective, new and current caregivers; routinely contributes to newspapers, magazines, and on-line markets; and served as a caregiver himself. He is also very pleased to have been twice-selected as a contributor in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas! as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat. www.ricklauber.com.