Joy or Duty? Regain the Fulfillment in Being a Caregiver
By Tara Heath
Taking care of anybody, whether it’s an elderly adult that needs help with day-to-day tasks or a healthy child, can be a stressful task. It doesn't matter if it’s a family member you’re caring for, or if the job is paid - the stress is equally difficult to deal with.
At the same time, the role of a caregiver is also incredibly rewarding. In fact, it was probably a very rewarding task when you first began. Over time, however, that sense of fulfillment can turn into a simple sense of responsibility, and one that many people grow to resent, even just a little bit.
To do a good job taking care of somebody, no matter their age, health, or mental status, you need to be healthy yourself. Rather than plod along, doing the duty you feel you must do, follow this guide to help you find the joy in caring for somebody else again.
Take Pleasure in the Little Things
Caring for somebody brings along with it a great sense of responsibility. After all, once you’re in the position of taking care of all or parts of a person’s daily life, they rely on and trust you for just about everything.
However, that sense of responsibility shouldn’t completely overshadow the fact that there are still things you’ve come to enjoy when caring for another person. Perhaps you feel good about making somebody smile when you prepare fresh orange juice – or maybe you enjoy talking to an elderly adult who lived through things you aren’t old enough to have seen.
Whatever pleasure you get from being with another person or caring for their needs to take center stage in your life. Otherwise, you’ll start feeling weighed down by responsibility, without feeling like you’re receiving anything at all – which is rarely the case.
Realize What You’re Learning
Throughout the process of caregiving, there’s a great deal you will learn each and everyday. That’s true whether you’re caring for a family member, loved one, or somebody you only met through the caregiving process.
What You’ll Learn:
- Time management skills. Caring for somebody else requires that you wear a lot of hats at once and balance their life, as well as your own. This can really come in handy later in life, even if it feels difficult now.
- Organization skills. Taking care of somebody else’s life and your own requires you to stay organized, even when it comes to the little things like bills and paperwork.
- Improved understanding of what’s lacking in your own life. By working with individuals that need your help, you’ll likely find where your weaknesses are in your own life and how you can work to correct those.
- A better understanding of what’s really important. While this might be most apparent for individuals caring for seniors, adults can learn a lot about what really matters from a person of any age.
Find Time for Yourself
The last step is one that’s really hard for a lot of caregivers – finding time for yourself. Unfortunately, if you don’t set aside time for hobbies and relaxing activities, you may end up burnt out. That’s going to cause the care you give to suffer greatly – even when you care about the person you’re taking care of.
What you do when you have free time doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it! Exercise, reading, watching movies, or taking a class all benefit you. It’s the time you spend nurturing yourself and your own desires that really matters.
Being a caregiver is a wonderful way to spend your time, no matter your reasons for doing it. But it’s important that you keep your priorities in line, and remember that focusing on yourself, at least a little bit, is absolutely necessary in order to provide the best care you can.
No one wants a caregiver who simply plods through the motions, just to get the job done. Find joy in who you’re caring for, and your job may become a great deal easier.
(This article by Tara Heath originally appeared on the Caregiving Partnership blog. Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She knows the difficulties of being a caregiver, after spending time caring for her grandmother with Alzheimer’s. However, she also knows how important it is to truly enjoy the person you are caring for. As a health writer, she contributes to many health and wellness sites.)
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.