Being a caregiver causes large amounts of stress, which harms the caregiver's physical and emotional health. In some cases, that stress has a negative effect on caregivers' performance of their duties. If you're worn out all the time you simply can't be a good caregiver.
Whether they realize it or not, however, caregivers do have rights - lots of them. The following list has been circulating on the internet for a long time and has been attributed to various persons. This version was taken from caregiver.com, where it is attributed to Jo Horne. Here it is:
I have the right:
1. To take care of myself. Caregiving is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capability of taking better care of my loved one.
2. To seek help from others even though my loved ones may object. Only I can recognize the limits of my endurance and strength.
3. To maintain facets of my 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 just for myself.
4. To get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult feelings occasionally.
5. To reject any attempts by my loved one (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt, and/or depression.
6. To receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do, from my loved ones, for as long as I offer these qualities in return.
7. To take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken to meet the needs of my loved one.
8. To protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in the time when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.
9. To expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically- and mentally-impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made towards aiding and supporting caregivers.
If only all caregivers could exercise their rights, their stress - although never disappearing - could be lessened, and their physical and mental health problems resulting from caregiving could decrease in frequency and intensity.
How many of these rights are you exercising? Which ones would you like to start exercising? Can any of you think of other rights that should be added to this list?
Marie Marley is the award-winning author of 'Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy' and co-author (with Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN) of 'Finding Joy in Alzheimer's: New Hope for Caregivers.' Her website, ComeBackEarlyToday.com, contains a wealth of helpful information for caregivers.