Health Benefits for Elder Caregivers

Having someone who “needs” you gives you reason to get up in the morning. The psychological rewards of feeling purposeful and needed can’t be overstated. That being said, providing care to an elderly relative 24/7 can be a stressful and exhausting experience, one that could cause illness and a shortened lifespan for some. I have often counseled caregivers to take care of themselves too, or they may not be around to take care of their loved one.

Although caregiving can take a toll on someone’s health and wellbeing, there apparently are some significant physical benefits as well. A new study described in “Caregiving’s Hidden Benefits” by Paula Span (www.newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com) showed that a group of caregivers, who were followed over eight years, had lower mortality rates, maintained stronger physical ability and did significantly better on memory tests than non-caregivers. Caregiving is physical, and exercise improves physical health and cognition.

This is good news! However, regardless of the benefits, caregivers should continue to be encouraged to practice good self-care. This includes periodic respite, where care is relinquished to someone else for periods of time, and regular checkups with their primary physicians.

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