Caregiver awards

It turns out that the government has declared November as “Family Caregiver’s Month”. Who knew? It’s well deserved and a great idea since, for the most part, cargiving can be a rather isolating endeavor. Those caring for their loved ones continue to show up day after day despite the odds, hours and obstacles.

Caregivers are not blind to hard reality. Or to the fact that short of a miracle, no matter how much they try, and how hard they work, their loved one’s abilities will continue to diminish and disappear until their time on earth finally draws to a close. Caregivers are often on a first name basis with such difficulties as isolation, financial strains, feelings of guilt and uncertainty as well as the uncomfortable reality of a shift in roles.

Why continue to labor in such a thankless and lonely burden of love? What keeps a person going? Part of the secret may be that they have discovered the ability to find sparks of joy in their everyday life as they celebrate even the tiniest victories.

The vast majority of these heroes will never be recognized for their tireless efforts. Of course, recognition is not what drives them. It is a sense of love mixed with duty that is usually the compelling force. Yes, there will always be those who simply find they have no other choice, but that is a fact of life.

I recently came across a study that provides one of those sparks of joy and reason to celebrate while caregiving.

It turns out that a study led by Johns Hopkins suggests that caregivers actually live longer, (no, it’s not that it just seems that way)

According to the Johns Hopkins-led study published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, an analysis of data previously gathered on more than 3,500 family caregivers suggests that those who assist a chronically ill or disabled family member actually enjoy an 18 percent survival advantage compared to statistically matched non-caregivers. Indeed, caregivers in the study lived a full nine years longer than non-caregivers over the course of the six-year study.

Taking care of a chronically ill person in your family is often associated with stress, and caregiving has been previously linked to increased mortality rates,” says first author, David L. Roth, Ph.D., director of the Johns Hopkins University Center on Aging and Health.

He adds that “In many cases, caregivers report receiving benefits of enhanced self-esteem, recognition, and gratitude from their care recipients.  Thus, when caregiving is done willingly, at manageable levels, and with individuals who are capable of expressing gratitude, it is reasonable to expect that health benefits might accrue in those situations.

So, while being a caregiver may have its share of demands and difficulties, try to find ways to appreciate the benefits of caregiving as well as the challenges.

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