Tired of headline after headline about the downsides of caregiving? Keep reading. Find out why it's good for you to care for your loved one with RA.
We don’t have to tell you that caring for a loved one with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can take a toll both physically and mentally. But, surprisingly, it can also positively impact your health.
Although caregivers are indeed more stressed, they also have higher physical endurance and better memories than noncaregivers. And some of the everyday actions that go with the territory—holding hands and hugging, for instance—can help ease anxiety and lead to improved well-being for both you and your loved one.
Read on to start reaping these health benefits of caring for your loved one with rheumatoid arthritis:
Amid running to doctor appointments, cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping, the idea of building strength may seem like a joke. Yet you may have more than you realize: A study of roughly 900 women, a group comprised of both caregivers and noncaregivers, found that caregivers outperformed noncaregivers in walking pace, grip strength and the speed with which they rose from a chair.
Make it work for you: Next time you’re feeling fatigued, grab your sneakers and go for a brisk walk. A little exercise can reenergize you and give you some much-needed “me time.”
All that juggling you do—organizing schedules, making appointments, staying on top of medications—gives you a cognitive edge: In yet another study with the same group of 900 women proved that caregivers outwitted noncaregivers, scoring higher on memory tests. These findings aren’t surprising considering that caregiving is often a mental juggling act, as you try to organize, schedule and make decisions for yourself and your loved one with RA.
Make it work for you: Try doing a crossword puzzle or playing some “brain games” with your loved one with RA. You’ll pass the time, stimulate your mind and strengthen your bond, too.
Have you ever reached out to your loved one while awaiting test results? You may have been doing so to calm his or her nerves, but this act also helped take the edge off your own anxiety. Human contact is a powerful stress reducer: Researchers monitored the brain activity of women, who held the hands of a stranger, a spouse or no one, and found that hand-holding helped relax the woman’s brain, especially when husband and wife interlocked fingers.
Make it work for you: Grab your loved one’s hand, and feel the tension melt away.
Caregivers are all too familiar with giving—giving their time, energy and, often, money to care for a loved one. And now studies show that these altruistic acts can have a positive impact on your confidence, self-esteem and overall emotional health. The caveat: You need to strike a healthy balance between giving and receiving. This means knowing when to ask for help and when to carve out respite.
Make it work for you: When you take your loved one shopping, pick up a special something for yourself. You might buy a favorite book or some bubble bath for a relaxing soak.
Here’s a new motto for caregivers: “When it doubt, hug it out!” Sometimes a sweet embrace is all it takes to make you and your loved one feel a little better. That’s because hugging has been shown to do wonders for your mood, according to a study in Psychosomatic Medicine. Couples sat close to one another and talked for 10 minutes, then shared a long hug; afterward they had a rise in oxytocin, the feel-good hormone known to reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure.
Make it work for you: Put your caregiving duties on hold and simply snuggle up with your loved one with RA tonight.