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There are unexpected benefits of caregiving
Caring for a family member or friend comes with unexpected benefits. I cared for my bedridden grandmother as a teenager, helped create solutions when my grandma developed Alzheimer’s, and currently take care of an adult child with Autism. Various challenges accompanied each situation, but I also found some fantastic moments and memories I will cherish forever.
Family stories and recipes
My grandmother was confined to her bed due to an accident in the 1940s after being hit by a truck. As time passed, she developed physical complications and required full-time care. As a teen, in the late 1990’s, I spent weekends with her to give my grandfather could have some time to himself.
She and I spent a great deal of time together and became very close. During that time, she shared family stories with me, and passed down old recipes. These pieces of herself she shared were treasures. I probably would not have them today had she been well.
Connection and beautiful memories
Fast forward a number of years to when my grandma developed Alzheimer’s. I lived a thousand miles away by then and had young children. However, I still made time to help. We talked by phone almost daily until she went into assisted living. When her memories started to fade, I worked with family members to find ways for her to make connections. We created and labeled family albums; I sent notes and pictures frequently, and visited as often as possible. I remember my grandma’s smile and the mischievous grin that appeared whenever she tried to pull one over on me. Had she been well, I might not have those memories; I remember focusing intently on her during that time looking for signs of connection.
Patience, understanding, organizational skills and self-care
When diagnosed with Autism, my son presented new challenges for me as a caregiver. Meeting his needs was different than caring for my grandmother, but the skills I learned from those experiences proved invaluable. Those past situations absolutely made me the Mom I am today. I am grateful I learned patience, empathy, and the importance of organization and efficiency; skills I draw upon now on a regular basis.
My son is grown now, but I am still a caregiver. It is a hard job and frustrating at times. During those times, I stop to remind myself of the precious memories we’ve made. For example, the look of joy on his face when he is happy, and how he gravitates toward me for safety or comfort when he’s not. In these moments, I know I am making a difference in his life.
It’s crucial to find the positive in every situation – I firmly believe that. However, we are all human and need time to ourselves to recharge and replenish. Self-care is essential, as is allowing yourself to feel the way you do. I’ve learned that taking time for myself when possible makes me a better caregiver.
The bottom line
Those who are caregivers know how easy it is to get distracted by the overwhelming responsibility and demands of the role. As a result, you may not take the time to acknowledge the tremendous difference your hard work makes in your charge’s life. It is often not until later you may look back and see the joy and appreciation your contributions made and the memories you created that stay in your heart.
About the Author
Christy Pickrell is a wife, mother and founder and President of Our Little Peace of Mind. where she helps guide families with loved ones that cannot speak for themselves. Most of all she is passionate, caring, and dedicated to advocating for her Autistic Son and helping families in need. She believes it takes a team to care for a loved one with a special need; there is no “I” in team and everyone is important! Questions for Christy? Email her today