Senior Living: The Caregiver’s Bill of Rights
By Rhonda Kay Leonard
Family caregivers are the backbone of support in a care recipient’s life. Caring for oneself is vitally important for family members, who may be tempted to put their own needs last. Just as flight attendants direct passengers to place oxygen masks over their own noses before helping fellow passengers, experts remind family caregivers to care for themselves first when caring for others. In an effort to support your caregiving efforts, consider the Caregiver’s Bill of Rights developed by Jo Horne, author of Caregiving: Helping an Aging Loved One:
I have the right . . .
- To take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capacity to take better care of my relative.
- To seek help from others even though my relative may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
- To maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can for this person, and I have the right to do some things for myself.
- To get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult feelings occasionally.
- To reject any attempt by my relative (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt, anger, or depression.
- To receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do for my loved one for as long as I offer these qualities in return.
- To take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken to meet the needs of my relative.
- To protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in the time when my relative no longer needs my full-time help.
- To expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired older persons in our country, similar strides will be made toward aiding and supporting caregivers.
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