Caregiving: Stress, Yes, But Also ‘Joy And Enrichment’

There are two sides to the coin of becoming a caregiver for an aging parent, something more and more people are discovering.
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On the one hand, almost everyone would expect this to be enormously stressful, both physically and emotionally.
But on the other hand, as pointed out in a recent article on the website of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, there are some very real rewards, as well.
“The time of caring for an older parent or relative can be one of joy and enrichment,” according to the article. “It can be a period of increased sharing, a renewal of that special closeness that has perhaps slipped away over the years; a time of rediscovering the family history. It can be a time for the healing of those old wounds left festering from childhood or adolescence. It can be a time for renewing old friendships or gaining wisdom from an elder.
“The majority of caregivers actually report that providing care makes them feel useful. Many anecdotal reports attest to caregivers’ satisfaction knowing that their older relative is receiving help while remaining in the community. For many caregivers the giving of assistance is not a one-way street. Rather, it is part of a mutual aid pact, as approximately one fourth of caregivers report that the older person for whom they care helps financially or with household chores.”
To be sure, the role-reversal of the children taking care of parents is not all sharing and renewal, as the UMKC researchers point out in citing numerous academic studies
“A pervasive theme found in the research centers on the burden and the stress of caregiving,” the article continues. “The caregiving process can be a time of increased anxiety and difficulty, particularly when the responsibilities of working, marriage, child rearing and parental caregiving collide. When the demands of work, spouses and children are juxtaposed against those of an aging parent with many needs, severe emotional drain can occur. Some research even reports that although most caregivers feel ‘close’ to their care receivers, an inverse correlation exists between the closeness of kin relationship and the ability to get along without rancor.
“If there are prior family problems lurking in the background, such as abuse, neglect or denial of emotional or financial support, there can be a potentially dangerous situation because the caregiver who was abused now is in the position of power.”

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