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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

The Caregiver's Bill of Rights


February 22, 2016, by Paul Cavanagh, Caregiver Exchange

Person with disability and caregiver If you find yourself spending a lot of time looking after someone, it can be easy to ignore the toll that it's taking on you. Routinely placing someone else’s needs ahead of your own can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health. It can also make you less effective as a caregiver.

The Caregiver Bill of Rights is an emphatic reminder of the importance of acknowledging your own needs when you’re caring for someone with a significant illness, particularly if it’s for an extended period of time. It's meant to be read everyday. You can personalize it by adding your own statements of rights to the list. 

It's been widely adopted by organizations who provide support to family caregivers.

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.
  • Seek help from others even though my relative 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 just for myself.
  • Get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult feelings occasionally.
  • Reject any attempt by my relative (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt, anger, or depression.
  • Receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do for my relative for as long as I offer these qualities in return.
  • Take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken to meet the needs of my relative.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Add my own statements of rights to this list. I will read this list to myself every day.

The Bill of Rights seems to have first appeared in Jo Horne's book Caregiving: Helping an Aging Loved One (AARP Books, 1985), although some attribute it to Wendy Lustbader, a social worker and well-known expert in the field of aging in Washington State.