Benefits of Active Caregiving

We so frequently focus on the negative impacts of caregiving, such as stress, lost time from work, and sadness, it’s refreshing to see reports that discuss the many positive aspects of caregiving. There are many, and they far outweigh the negatives for the majority of families.Positive Aspects of Caregiving discusses research conducted by the University of Buffalo, which found that caregivers who took on more active roles in caregiving experienced more positive emotions than negative emotions. Active caregiving is defined as physical assistance with tasks like bathing and toileting.

Michael Poulin, a lead researcher in the study, mentions recent reports that caregiving can take a toll on the well-being of caregivers, but his research indicates that in some cases, caregiving can have a positive impact on well-being.

The CDC and the Kimberly Clark Foundation published a lengthy but useful document for practitioners and researchers who implement interventions for caregivers, Assuring Healthy Caregivers, in 2008. The publication discusses the RE-AIM Framework (Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance), a useful tool that helps translate research into practice to develop effective interventions that help caregivers cope with the challenges of providing care.

While this publication is primarily geared towards practitioners, there are some interesting takeaways for caregivers, including some statistics taken from various sources:

  • Caregivers are present in one in five households.
  • 83% are family caregivers.
  • The number of family caregivers is expected to increase by 85% between 2000 and 2050.
  • All Baby Boomers will be at least 65 years old by the year 2030, fueling an increase in the senior population (101% increase between 2000 and 2030) and the need for caregivers.

The emotional, physical, and financial burden on caregivers is certainly addressed in light of developing solutions, but also noted are the benefits many caregivers experience:

  • Personal fulfillment
  • Satisfaction from helping a family member
  • Development of new skills and competencies
  • Improved family relationships

The Assuring Healthy Caregivers report also outlines the findings of a 2002 study of 211 caregivers conducted by Cohen and associates. The research revealed that 73% of surveyed caregivers could identify at least one positive aspect of caring for a loved one. Recognition of the positive aspects of caregiving was associated with lower depression scores, lower perceived caregiver burden, and better self-assessed health. Caregivers of loved ones residing in assisted living facilities or nursing homes who miss out on active participation in activities of daily living (discussed in the University of Buffalo’s research) can still benefit from these positive emotions.

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