A Caregiver’s Bill of Rights

If you don’t pay attention to you, the chances of your burning out, getting depressed or getting ill are enormous.

by Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC

So you’ve suddenly become the caregiver for the parents who took care of you.  You’re it!  What a shock!  You were not prepared for this — no training, no experience.  You just added another full-time job to those you already have.  You still have only 24 hours in your day, but now you have 36 hours of responsibilities.

What to do?

Here is a Caregiver’s Bill of Rights that can help you manage what surely feels unmanageable.  The focus is on taking care of yourself while you take care of others.  If you don’t pay attention to you, the chances of your burning out, getting depressed or getting ill are enormous.  And then, who will take care of your parents, your family and your career?

Ten Commandments for Caregivers

  1. Be good to yourself
  2. Set limits
  3. Accept all your feelings
  4. Have realistic expectations
  5. Practice problem-solving
  6. Avoid impulsive decisions
  7. Be flexible
  8. Keep your sense of humor
  10. Celebrate a success every day

Easier said than done, I know, but taking a little private time to renew yourself every day will make a big difference in your stamina, positive energy and attitude, and will ultimately prevent burn-out.

Set limits on yourself — you can only do what you can do.  Perfection is overrated.  You can’t cure your parents, you can only improve their quality of life, and even that only as much as they will allow you.  And set limits for others, too.  “NO!” actually is a complete sentence!

Your feelings will run the gamut from sad to glad, angry to scared, loving to hateful.  Accept the feelings, whatever they are.  All are perfectly normal human reactions to a stressful situation.

Have realistic expectations for yourself and for others.  There is no right or wrong or perfect — there is only what works.  You are a good daughter or son because you stepped up to the plate.

Most of the issues that come up on your caregiver’s journey are problems to be solved.  Some are easier to address than others, but it is essential to ask for help in solving them.  Assign some jobs to your siblings.  You’d be amazed how often they will help if you ask them to do something specific, such as paying a bill or arranging for cable TV.

There is a wealth of resources available out there if you only look.  Find experts and consult with them.  There are advisers and managers of every stripe:  medical, financial, geriatric care — you don’t have to travel this path alone.

Pearl of wisdom:  Celebrate a success every single day.  If you solved even one problem, big or small, celebrate it!  If your parent got through the day safely and as comfortably as possible, and you are still standing, celebrate!

Joan Blumenfeld, MS, LPC is a Geriatric Care manager practicing in Fairfield County, Connecticut. For information visit joanblumenfeld.com. © Joan Blumenfeld 2011

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