Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what our rights are. As caregivers, we tend to forget that our care and nurture is as important as the care of our loved one.
Here’s a Caregiver’s Bill of Rights from an anonymous—but obviously knowledgeable—source:
1. I have the right to take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capability of taking better care of my loved one.
2. I have the right to seek help from others, even though my relatives may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
3. I have the right to maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person for whom I care, just as I would if he or she were healthy.
4. I have the right to get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult feelings occasionally. When I express them, I will do so in a place where those feelings cannot possibly harm anyone else, especially my patient.
5. I have the right to reject any attempts—conscious or unconscious—by my loved one to manipulate me through guilt.
6. I have the right to receive considerate behavior, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance from my loved one for what I do, as long as I offer these qualities to her or him in the care I give.
7. I have the right to take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken me to meet the needs of my loved one.
8. I have the right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in the time when my loved one no longer needs my help.
9. I have the right to expect and demand that on-going efforts be made in this country—and my community—to find resources to aid and support caregivers like me.
10. I know that I am never alone in my caregiving, that the knowledge of other caregivers is always available to help me, and that God’s loving presence constantly surrounds me and my loved one.
A formalized caregivers Bill of Rights provides balance and asserts that all individuals have needs that have to be fulfilled. I believe this example of a caregivers bill of rights by Wendy Lustbader captures the core values very well.
❓ Wendy Lustbader, M.S.W. , is a mental health counselor at Pike Market Medical Clinic in Seattle and affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work. She also lectures nationally on topics related to chronic illness, aging, and the needs of family caregivers. She is the co-author of Taking Care of Aging Family Members: A Practical Guide and author of Counting on Kindness: The Dilemmas of Dependency, both published by the Free Press.
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