Valentine’s Day is a day for sharing love notes and special treats with those we love! Most importantly, today’s the day to refresh and reflect on the best ways to take care of yourself, the family caregiver. Often, we speak of the importance of caring for the caregiver, avoiding caregiver stress, and preventing caregiver burnout.
What does preventing caregiver burnout really mean? Caregiver burnout shows up in many different ways and each caregiver responds to the demands of daily caregiving in a different way. What we do know is that caregiver burnout is a very real threat to the health of the family caregiver and taking a proactive approach to the demands and stresses of caregiving is healthier than responding to the symptoms of caregiver stress.
The American Heart Association outlines the Caregiver’s Rights. We think these are good discussion points to have with your aging parent, your support team and your health care provider.
I have the right to:
- Take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will enable me to take better care of my loved one.
- Seek help from others even though my loved one may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
- 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.
- Get angry, be depressed and express other difficult emotions occasionally.
- Reject any attempt by my loved one (either consciously or unconsciously) to manipulate me through guilt, anger or depression.
- Receive consideration, affection, forgiveness and acceptance from my loved one for as long as I offer these qualities in return.
- Take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it sometimes takes to meet the needs of my loved one.
- Protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.
- 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 toward aiding and supporting caregivers.
We hope that you will post a copy of these rights in a prominent location in your home, review the points with your aging parent, and review a plan with your support team. If you don’t have a support team, there are resources to help you learn to utilize resources for respite care and other program. For additional information, you may wish to visit The Well Spouse Association, the National Family Caregivers Association or the National Alliance of Caregiving.