Caregiving is rarely easy. As rewarding as it can be to provide support and care for somebody in need, it is also a physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting undertaking. This is why caregiving requires one with an endless supply of patience, compassion and empathy. Well who better to empathize with the unique challenges of senior living than a senior?
According to an article in the Post and Courier, the senior population is increasingly becoming its own source for high quality care and support. A study by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) notes that it has become an ever more common scenario for younger seniors to provide care to older seniors or those who are in greater need of everyday help. For many more able seniors, caregiving is a natural outlet for their time and energy. In fact, the PHI projects that by 2018, 29% of caregivers will be 55 or older, up from 22% a decade prior.
One reason that many seniors are drawn to caregiving for other seniors is because they are in the best position to understand and address the needs of others who are advancing in age. Older caregivers will likely have a clearer sense of the daily challenges that go along with aging, be they physical challenges like walking up the stairs or emotional challenges like coping with the loss of friends and loved ones to age. As a caregiver, having a greater appreciation for the difficulty of these experiences can make you a better and more intuitive advocate for your care recipient.
Your understanding of some of the frustrations felt by your care recipient may help to serve as a cushion against your own frustration and, ultimately, could be a great reservoir for patience as you endure daily challenges together. Indeed, as Hometown Life points out, the ‘intra-generational’ approach to caregiving is based on the view that older caregivers will have a better understanding of what it means to manage the aging process.
This better understanding can, in many cases, mean a higher quality of care or, at least, a more emotionally connected caregiver. But the benefits of seniors caring for seniors are felt by more than just the care recipient. For those with the time, patience and compassion to do the job, caregiving for one’s fellow seniors can also instill a greater sense of purpose. Providing care and attention to somebody else in need can be a source of energy, motivation and pride.
The benefits are more than just intrinsic of course. The Del Mar Times also points out that caregiving can be a great way to supplement an otherwise fixed income. Many seniors who are fit and active but who are living on a retiree’s income, may find caregiving a decidedly fulfilling way to pad the bills.
Caregiving can also help to foster a sense of community amongst seniors. Few things are more valuable than the feeling of having a strong support system not just medically but socially as well. The connections formed when seniors care for seniors can make an enormous difference in the life of care recipient and provider alike.