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Tips and Bill of Rights for Family Caregivers

  1. Educate yourself about your family member's illness and about how to be a caregiver as much as you can. The more you know, the more effective you'll be, and the better you'll feel about your efforts.
  2. Know your limits.  Be realistic about how much of your time and yourself you can give. Set clear limits, and communicate those limits to doctors, family members, and other people involved.
  3. Accept your feelings. Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. As long as you don't compromise the well-being of the care receiver, allow yourself to feel what you feel.
  4. Confide in others. Talk to people about what you feel; don't keep your emotions bottled up. Caregiver support groups are invaluable, but trusted friends and family members can help too. You may also benefit from seeing a therapist, counselor, or caregiver specialist.
  5. Take breaks. Utilize respite, reach out to friends, and take advantage of quiet times.
  6. Watch out for signs of depression. Don't delay in getting professional help when you need it.
  7. Accept help. When someone offers to help, suggest specific things that they can do.
  8. Communicate assertively. Assertive communication is more effective and increases confidence.
  9. Consider alternative solutions. There may be technologies or ideas that promote your loved one's independence. There's a difference between caring and doing.
  10. Trust your instincts; most of the time they'll lead you in the right direction.
  11. Set goals and work toward them. Writing down realistic goals will help you stay on track. Make sure goals are realistic and attainable.
  12. Grieve for your losses, and then allow yourself to dream new dreams.
  13. Seek support from other caregivers. There is great strength in knowing you are not alone.
  14. Practice self-care. Eat well, see your own doctor, make time to exercise, and use relaxation techniques.
  15. Do what you enjoy. Give yourself permission to pursue your interests or hobbies.

Caregiver's Bill of Rights

  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 relative.
  2. I have the right to seek help from others even though my relative 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 I care for, just as I would if they were healthy.
  4. I have the right to get angry, be depressed, and to express other difficult feelings occasionally.
  5. I have the right to reject any attempt by my relative to manipulate me through guilt, anger, or depression.
  6. I have the right 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.
  7. I have the right to take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken to meet the needs of my relative.
  8. I have the right 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.
  9. I have the right 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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