A recent Time Magazine article said it best: “Be nice, because people who care for others live longer.” –According to a recent study profiled in this article, people who occasionally watch and care for others live longer than people who do not. This study is good news for caregivers, who devote a large portion of their time taking care of a loved one. Keep reading to learn more about the physical and mental health benefits that can come as a result of taking care of other people.
What Are the Health Benefits of Caregiving?
Did you know that 83% of caregivers have viewed their experience as positive? That may surprise you since many articles showcase the difficult (potentially negative) aspects of caregiving. We are here to highlight research that supports the positive impact (not just how to overcome the negative). We’ve highlighted several positive rewards associated with caregiving in psychological, emotional, and spiritual terms based on this research, such as:
- A new sense of purpose or meaning in life
- Fulfillment of a lifelong commitment to a spouse
- An opportunity to give back to a parent some of what the parent has given to them
- Renewal of religious faith
- Closer ties with people through new relationships or stronger existing relationships
These benefits, often referred to as ‘caregiver gain’ are now supported with physical and mental benefits.
Physical Benefits of Caregiving
As a caregiver, you may have to help a loved one through their activities of daily living (ADL’s) like bathing, dressing, or getting in and out of bed. These caregiving activities can help you build up your strength and stamina, resulting in overall improvements in your physical health. In a 2009 study, researchers found that among elderly female caregivers of people with osteoporotic fractures, those who provided more assistance with activities of daily living showed better physical performance and slower rates of physical decline (measured by walking pace, grip strength, and chair-stand speed) than non-caregivers and those who provided less assistance with ADLs.
Mental Health Benefits of Caregiving
In a 2011 Boston University study published in The Journal of Aging and Health, researchers found that older women who cared for someone long-term had significantly sharper memory and better thought processing speed than their non-caregiving peers. All of the day-to-day cognitive activities like paying bills, scheduling, medication management, and dealing with healthcare and insurance companies can provide cognitive benefits for the caregiver by sharpening your mind and improving memory.
Caregiving is a tough job, but it’s nice to know that out of the struggle comes so many positives. However, it’s important to remember that the only way to reap these full benefits, is to ensure you are also making time to take care of yourself.