Healing Effects of Caregiving

The healing effects of caregiving get little attention. Many family #caregivers understand that caring for someone can bring positive change and transform our lives. After a week of horrific national violence, I think caregivers have insight to offer as America struggles to heal.

Healing Effects of Caregiving

I’ve been thinking about the children who lost a loved one this week. A policeman killed Philando Castile as his girlfriend and her 4-year old daughter watched. Shortly afterward, the families of five Dallas policemen lost fathers, sons, and brothers. The pain that ripped through the country after these senseless murders shreds the fabric of our society. It will haunt us for years to come.

Caregivers and Healing

I think caregivers have a unique perspective on these events. Every day we get up and minister to people we love. We have a deep understanding of the value of life and constant awareness of the threat of death. Research on caregivers also shows that most of us feel caring for a loved one has a healing effect on us. Our approach to healing can play a role in our communities, too.

A 2014 National Opinion Research Center survey found that 83 percent of caregivers viewed our work as a positive experience. Many family caregivers also said they felt: “a sense of giving back to someone who has cared for them, personal growth, and increased meaning and purpose” in life.

People I know are often surprised when I tell them how much I value the experience of caring for my mom. They see it as a hard job and one that must surely depress me. Sometimes that’s true. But I’m also very thankful that I have a job that allows me to do this for my mother. Being a caregiver has made me a far more compassionate, patient and loving person. I feel the healing effect of caregiving in every aspect of my life and I want to share that with others.

Caregivers make the preservation of life a priority even when we know that we can’t save our loved one. Yet so many people around us believe that shooting people who are African-American, White, Latino, or Gay is an acceptable response to conflict. My family raised me to value life and my experience as a caregiver has strengthened what I learned as a kid. We need to respect the gift of life that was given to each person in our society and find ways to make our world more humane for everyone. If you are a caregiver, please encourage your friends and family to share their love and not their hate. There is more than enough outrage to go around, but not nearly enough compassion.


A Caregiver’s Thoughts on Independence Day

A caregiver’s thoughts on Independence Day may not be festive. Independence is something caregivers have to sacrifice most days of the year. The 4th of July is no exception.

Caregiver's Thoughts on Independence Day

Practically every task in our daily lives revolves around meeting the needs of someone else. In most cases, the person we care for is far more vulnerable than we are. Even if they are physically strong, they have lost the capacity to be able to take proper care of themselves. Nine days out of ten, we put their well-being ahead of our own, often to the detriment of our health. If we’re lucky, on that tenth day we can get a few minutes alone to take a walk, have lunch with a friend, or address some matter in our life that has been neglected.

This sacrifice of independence, is different than the sacrifice a parent makes while caring for their child. A parent knows (or dearly hopes) that their kid will grow up healthy and able to exercise their own independence one day. But caregivers can’t motivate themselves through the hard times by thinking about a happy ending on the horizon. We know that our independence can only be achieved when our loved one leaves the earthly plane. There’s a great sadness at the core of this understanding. To fulfill our role, we need to put that thought aside and focus on the moment we’re in.

Some days I am desperate for a little personal independence. At times I wake up but keep my head on the pillow, daydreaming about the things I want to do that will take me away from the drudgery built into my daily routine. But I know in my heart that as much as I crave independence, I don’t want to lose my mom. She is funny, she is sweet. She is so much like a little child that I am sometimes tricked into thinking that’s who she is. It’s a cruel form of role reversal. But managing this challenge has enriched my life in many ways, too. My mother’s illness has brought some wonderful people into our lives and made me value our family much more than I ever understood possible.

These thoughts are pretty random, but I’m sure that this mood catches many of you as you consider the unpredictability of life, wondering what will come next. Maybe caregivers just have to steal an Independence Moment, instead of an entire Independence Day. We know how to observe a Moment of Silence, or a Moment of Appreciation. Let’s invite ourselves to take a few moments of Independence, too. Go ahead. Independence Day is almost over so I’m taking my Independence Moment right now.