Taking care of an aging loved one is draining, both physically and emotionally. It can be lonely, overwhelming and frustrating, and it often seems thankless. Despite all of this, family caregivers persevere and wake up every day to face new challenges. Why? Because they care.
Caregiving is the ultimate act of love. It is a selfless, generous thing to do, and one that many people wouldn’t think about taking on.
So give yourself some credit. Realize how important your role as a caregiver is. In times of grief and frustration, it is difficult to imagine how in the world caregiving can be considered a positive experience. However, if you delve a little deeper, you will find the silver linings of your clouds.
Providing care for another person is uncharted territory. Most people are unprepared for this role. There are no courses on how to be a good caregiver. There is no textbook on what to expect. Somehow, you figured it out. You learn everything you can, get creative when you have to and do your best. Caregiving is a huge personal accomplishment, and you should be proud of your resourcefulness, flexibility and determination.
- A Rewarding Experience
Even with a difficult parent, caregiving can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It is easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind of providing care, but when we adopt this short-sighted perspective, our efforts don’t seem very rewarding. Looking back someday, you will probably think that the time spent with your loved one was incredibly gratifying. When you are feeling overwhelmed, try to take a step back and think about the big picture.
- Being There
One of the biggest fears that people have about illness and death is going through these events alone. Because of you, your loved one will never have to face that. Whether they are of sound mind or struggling with the effects of dementia, they will understand on some level that you are with them when they need you most. Your time, effort and attention provide comfort and have a profoundly beneficial impact on your loved one. This is an priceless gift.
- Precious Moments
Like life, caregiving is full of ups and downs. They may be few and far between, but when special moments come along, they make your heart sing. A moment of recognition from a loved one with dementia, a heartfelt “thank you” from someone who is usually ornery, a long-lost family story and a shared laugh are all treasures for caregivers to cherish. These highpoints can also act as fuel to keep you chugging along if you let them. Looking back on your caregiving journey, you will remember those tender moments.
- You are Forever Changed
Caregiving changes your perspective on life. This experience will help you realize what is important to you in the long run and what your goals are for yourself, your family, and your own golden years. Even under the most challenging circumstances, taking care of someone you love can have a powerful influence on your outlook, your relationships and your life.
- Making a Difference
Never underestimate the impact you have on others. You’re not going to get an award, and you may not even receive any acknowledgment for what you do or what you sacrifice. But always remember: you are making a difference in someone’s life every day. That’s what life is all about.
The decision to choose others over yourself, to show mercy, to choose quality over quantity of life, and to send the message that “I am here for you,” these things are the ultimate expression of love. It isn’t easy, but it is commendable. You are part of something bigger than yourself. Celebrate it. Embrace it.