Can Caregiving Be Good For You?


Caregiving, caregiver, parent care, caring for parentsWhat I dreaded most, my mother's passing, became a special caregiving moment.  I felt peace and pride as my family gathered to sit by my mother's bed and reminisce.

There have been a lot of studies that support the existence of caregiver stress and how it takes a toll on mental and physical health. One of the most frequently discussed topics in support groups are caregivers seeking treatment for depression.  I'm very familiar with some of downsides.  My sister's blood pressure dropped after my mother's death.  The year before my mother died, I spent five days in the hospital as a consequence of my own caregiver stress.

What is overlooked is the positive side of caring for parents, the sense of accomplishment, purpose and meaning that it brings.  A recent study completed by the University of Michigan challenged the notion that caregiving is only about stress.  It found that older spouses who provided at least fourteen hours of care per week to their partner were significantly less likely to have died during the study than individuals who provided less care.

Tips for transforming stress into purpose:

Stay connected to your values.

As a coach, I firmly believe that caregiving is a choice.  There may be times when it doesn't feel like a choice. It just feels thankless and endless. How you choose to care for a family member represents your core values.  What does your caregiving say about you?

Stay in tune with yourself.

Caregiving focuses on the well being of your family member.  It's all too easy to put yourself second all the time.  Regularly check in and ask yourself what you need.  Neglecting your health and relationships or failing to set healthy boundaries can cause you to get lost in your caregiving experience.  My hospital stay was a clear sign for me to slow down and listen to my body.

Get help with your caregiving.

The number one mistake that I see people make is providing parent care until they are near collapse.  Caring for parents is a huge responsibility yet most of us approach it as the ultimate do-it-yourself project.  Build a team of reliable partners to help you.  Having parent care partners means you can focus on the things that no one else can provide, love and emotional connection with your parent.

How do you stay connected to your higher purpose when caring for parents?  Share your story with us.

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--Janice Wallace


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