5 Surprising Benefits In Home Caregivers Get from Their Work

July 2, 2015

Personal compensations like gaining confidence and skills, feelings of personal satisfaction, and increased connections are typically sited as the biggest rewards for choosing to provide in home care. A few years ago, however, researchers came out with hard-hitting findings about the benefits caregivers get that were so surprising, they questioned their data and methodology.

Over four years, Dr. Lisa Fredman and her colleagues at Boston University studied 900 women who had been caregivers at some point in their lives. At the time of the study, many of these women had become seniors themselves. Finding that, even years later, caregivers are physically stronger and more cognitively adept than those who weren’t caregivers shocked the study authors. Upon first seeing the results, Fredman, thought
“what on earth is going on here. . . I blamed myself. I thought something was wrong with my data.”

Specifically, the caregivers could walk faster and recall words on a memory test more quickly and with greater accuracy. The study, as reported in the New York Times, found that, while caregivers certainly experienced more stress while working in that role, they demonstrated lower mortality rates than non-caregivers over eight years of follow-up. Dr. Fredman explains that the underlying reason for this health benefit could be that caregivers must be up moving around quite a bit, lifting things seniors cannot and at times even lifting the senior. In home caregivers push wheelchairs and even participate in walking and other exercise with their charges. These are benefits cubicle workers do not have access to.

Physical benefits weren’t the only advantage. Caregivers also performed better on memory tests than the non-caregivers researchers followed for two years. Former in home caregivers in their early to mid-80s even scored at the level of those 10 years younger. Dr. Fredman explains, “Caregiving often requires complex thought. Caregivers monitor medications, they juggle schedules, they may take over financial responsibilities.” Following the “use it or lose it” school of thought, all of these activities help ward off cognitive decline.

While gerontologists acknowledge the physical and mental toll of “caregiver burden,” conclusions from studies like these prompted them to coin the term, “caregiver gain.” The caregiver role, which often exacts such high costs in terms of stress and exhaustion, can also bring rewards. Further, researchers point out that the short-term or limited investment in caring for a senior often creates positive memories and experiences that last a lifetime.

In Home Caregivers Weigh in on the Benefits of Their Jobs

While researchers can measure large populations and enlighten us with their conclusions, excellent insider knowledge comes on a case by case basis from the in home caregivers themselves. Typically, our caregivers tell us that they appreciate:

Flexibility: The choice of working part-time, days, nights, weekends or live in allows them to care for children, have other jobs and just live the way they want.

Opportunity to Gain Expertise: Caregiving is a constant learning process, both academically and on the job. Through online, community college and other low-cost programs, many caregivers develop and sharpen their skills in caring for seniors with heart disease, COPD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s syndrome, dementia and more. As they gain more experience and confidence caregivers can take on more challenging or involved care clients, broadening their ranges of skills and expertise.

Sense of Meaning: In home caregivers appreciate the sense of value they derive from their jobs. More than a cog in a corporate environment, they help another gain a sense of independence and comfort. They see every day how they enrich the lives of those in their care. Caregivers often express how much they learn from someone who’s lived many decades and seen so much change. While MyCareMatch.com is not affiliated with one religion, we do see that it’s not uncommon for those with deep faith exploring the idea of service through home care giving.

Opportunity to Share Experiences: Caregivers report that they love taking their clients to their favorite bookstores, parks and museums. Sharing interests, locations and passions deepens experiences for both caregiver and client.

Preparation for a Career in Nursing: Many of those providing non-medical, in home care for seniors do so to evaluate their passion for nursing or other medical careers. These individuals appreciate the chance to interact with healthcare teams and families to keep the senior compliant with a healthcare plan. They often accompany the senior to appointments and spend time in hospitals, learning the myriad of careers available in healthcare. Experience as an in home caregiver also impresses college admissions officers and hospital recruiters as well. In short, providing in home care services is a resume booster!

Helping In Home Caregivers Find their Next Ideal Client

To get your start or continue your career with in-home caregiving, MyCareMatch.com can make the process of finding your next client easy and safe. When you complete your profile with MyCareMatch.com, clients looking for just your background, training and experience would like to meet you! Please read “Tips for Finding Your Next Job on My Care Match,” to ensure you get the kind of care job you want and with the best offer. Click the links above to get started or contact us with any questions you may have. We look forward to jump-staring your caregiving career!

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of MyCareMatch.com and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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