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The Rewards of Being a Family Caregiver

posted by Diane Holmes on Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We’re all familiar with the costs of being a family caregiver - stress, hard work, long hours, depression, social isolation, and financial pressures. But that perspective overlooks the value of services provided by family members, estimated at $306-450 billion annually. More importantly being a family caregiver can be enriching, rewarding, and a powerful act of love. James R. Sherman, Ph.D. wrote a series of books about making the caregiving experience a good one - for the people giving and receiving care - as well as ways to prevent and cope with the related stresses. This article focuses on using creativity, humor, and a positive attitude.

Much of caregiving involves unexpected challenges, but with creativity, challenges can be successfully overcome. Problems seen as opportunities to play and experiment with until a solution is identified can build a sense of pride and can be fun for the caregiver and person receiving care. Our biggest obstacle can be believing "that will never work." Sometimes the craziest ideas can lead to the best solutions, if we openly explore every option.

Attitude about situations can make life miserable or outstanding more than what actually happens. The good news is that we have the ability to change our attitude. The challenge is becoming aware of the thoughts and attitudes that lead to feeling overwhelmed, angry, or hopeless, and making a conscious choice to choose healthy ones. We can eliminate negative input by not watching TV or reading newspapers that focus on the negative, substituting reading or programs that are inspirational and optimistic; writing down inspirational quotes or sayings and putting them in a small box to pull out daily. We can boost our attitude with exercise, calling a friend, or giving flowers to the person for whom we provide care. These changes can reorient our thinking and attitude.

Let’s face it, funny things happen when providing care for another, if we are paying attention. Have you ever flushed underwear down the toilet trying to clean up after an episode of incontinence or gotten trapped between the toilet and a wheelchair trying to help someone use a public restroom? As Bill Cosby said, "If you can find humor in it, you can survive it." To feed our humor we can have a "humor buddy" to tell a good joke when we need it, or build a "humortorium," a place where we keep funny books and movies, clown noses, and soap bubbles. As the great sage Dr. Seuss said, "From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." We just have to look for it.

Positive Caregivers

• are realistic

• feel good about themselves

• trust others and are compassionate

• feel they are in control of their lives

• feel challenged, courageous, and competent

• have healthy ambitions and pursue realistic goals

• are creative and competitive in constructive ways

• are good friends with their care receiver and others

• have no difficulty in developing healthy interpersonal relationships

• can take a position on a sensitive topic without becoming obsessed

• are tolerant of others, even those who have different belief systems

• see themselves as others do and are comfortable with what they see

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