Caregiving Might Keep You Young

A few years ago, I got my own cardiologist. That’s because like many women, I did such a good job of caring for my husband after his surgery that I began having heart palpitations and panic attacks. So I would agree that caregiving is stressful in the extreme.

But there’s good news, too. Dr. Lisa Fredman, a Boston University epidemiologist, studied elderly women who had cared for ill family members, and she discovered the following health benefits as a result:

  • caregivers experienced lower mortality rates
  • in measures of walking pace, grip strength and the speed with which they could rise from a chair, the caregivers declined less than non-caregivers over two years
  • the caregivers retained better cognitive function

Dr. Fredman and her colleagues theorize that some of the benefits result from the caregivers’ having to move and think more actively than normal for their age group. Exercise of body and brain can keep you young. And we already knew that caregivers can reap psychological, emotional and even spiritual benefits: growing confidence in one’s abilities, feelings of personal satisfaction, and increased family closeness. But this more measurable information is new, and worth celebrating.

My husband and I are now caregiving on both ends of the age scale. We help my elderly mother, who lives a few blocks from us, and today we start babysitting our granddaughter one day a week. The pleasure is ours, of course. We’d do it even if there were no reward, maybe even if it hurt us (and I expect that after crawling around after Ella all day, my back and hips will complain loudly). But it’s pretty cool to know our loving involvement might even help us stay sharp.

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  1. says

    While you are in the trenches of caregiving, you think that it is the most difficult job that you’ve ever had. But in those quiet moments when the most profound observations pop into your head, you realize that caregiving done with good intention, compassion and deep love is the most rewarding job you’ve ever had. It is the ultimate ‘pay it forward.’
    Celia Pomerantz
    Author/Photographer of Alzheimer’s: A Mother Daughter Journey

  2. says

    Lynne dear,
    This would make a super video on ME Quiet? You’re Kidding, Right? …
    Care giving, a pleasure? Who knew…:)
    3 minutes on the cycle of life that includes paying it forward and & feeling gratitude is not mentioned much when this topic is discussed—-focus tends to be on ‘burn out’—ur on to something here as evidenced by this thread…
    just a thought…. good stuff I enjoy reading.

  3. says

    This is certainly good news. I always had the impression that care givers wear out faster. So bring it on! Pass us the baby buggies and wheel chairs and let us get on with our lifework connecting the generations!

  4. says

    Great info, Lynne! Most of us in our “middle years” are giving care in one way or another to our parents and our kids. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! Challenges abound; so do frustrations. However, it can also be very worthwhile, with rewards too numerous to mention. Keep focusing on the positives, and the difficulties won’t seem so difficult!

  5. says

    Thank you for sharing. It is wonderful that you are looking at the positives of caregiving. There is a lot of negative post that I have read on the subject. It is encouraging to read the positives. Your post showed a caring heart.

  6. says

    This is wonderful to know Lynne. Let’s face it, the aches and pains will still be there whether we are caregiving or not. We might just as well enjoy caring for our loved ones as long as we can. And you are the poster child for handling both ends of the spectrum! In the end, doing what we need to do is what nurtures our souls. So keep on enjoying the moments :-)

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