By Jeannette Sheehan
At some point, you may find yourself becoming a caregiver for a spouse, parent or other loved one. Some people might worry that the pressure of their own daily life combined with being a caregiver might shave years off their life. Interestingly this nurturing may actually have the opposite effect and extend their life based on findings from a University of Michigan study and Journal Stroke study. A full 90 percent of those interviewed in the study reported a deeper appreciation of life due to their caregiving experience. Many also expressed it helped them develop a more positive attitude towards life.
Children caring for an aging parent report feeling a stronger bond with their parent as well as improved self-esteem. In some cases, the additional time spent with a parent has allowed for old wounds to heal and forgiveness over past issues. For the individual being cared for it allows for individualized attention, shared life experiences and forging a deeper relationship with someone close to them.
Overall, taking care of a human being often makes people feel their life takes on deeper meaning. Where some aspects of daily life do not allow for closure, many of the care living tasks allow people to feel they accomplished something during their day and feel more in control.
On the flip side, there is no denying that being a caregiver will have moments of increased stress and frustration, perhaps leading to exhaustion. As the caregiver, look at the tasks you perform. Based on these duties you can determine where you may benefit from help with the care, such as sharing or delegating duties. Perhaps you might need help with transportation, groceries or with the physical challenges of caring for an individual that is similar in stature to yourself. Enlist the efforts of another family member, friend or consider hiring a professional.
Another consideration for caregivers is to take advantage of out-of-home programs like senior centers, which offer activities, trips, transportation, meals and more; or adult day-care centers which offer more medical assistance versus socialization. For more information on these options go to www.800ageinfo. To be a successful caregiver it is essential that you maintain a healthy lifestyle, have a support network and take time for yourself each day to avoid caregiver burnout.
Jeannette Sheehan, MSN, RN, a board certified nurse practitioner is the founder and owner of ABC Home Healthcare Professionals, 233 Albion Street, Wakefield. She can be reached at 781-245-1880 or online at www.abchhp.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read on fiftyplusadvocate.com.