If you’ve spent any time on a commercial airline, you’ve heard the flight attendant say this during the pre-flight safety briefing: “In the event of an unexpected drop in cabin pressure, put on your own mask first before assisting others.”
According to Mary Jo Johnson, Life Care Coordinator at Kimbrough Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm with offices in Athens and Gainesville, Georgia, this advice applies to family caregivers, but it can be hard to implement. “Intellectually, we know the importance of taking care of ourselves but the thought of putting ourselves first when we have a loved one with so many needs just doesn’t feel right,” Mary Jo explained. “It seems selfish, and we don’t do it. Or, if we do take time out to care for ourselves, we end up on the guilt train.”
Mary Jo has firsthand experience with the challenges of caregiving and how self-care for caregivers is easier said than done. She and her family cared for her father during his Alzheimer's journey. “If only I knew then what I know now,” she said. “Today I know better. I know the importance of self-care better now than I did then. But in all honesty, it’s still easier to think about self-care activities than it is to actually do them. Planning for self-care seemed to add more items to an already too long to-do list.”
If you’re a caregiver, what does it mean to put your oxygen mask on? And how can you do that without neglecting your loved one?
Mary Jo stresses the importance of having someone to confide in about your experiences as a caregiver. “You can’t hold it all in,” she cautioned, noting that sharing issues with other family members may not always be the right choice, especially if you’re trying to appear strong in front of family. “You might pick a friend, a pastor, or a support group. No matter which route you go, you’ll come away with helpful suggestions from someone who has walked in your shoes.”
Talk to Your Loved One’s Doctors
Your loved one’s health care providers can be important allies during the caregiving journey. If you’re confused about what to say or you find yourself forgetting to ask questions when you’re at doctor’s visits, Mary Jo recommends Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older Adults . Created by the National Institute of Health, this publication can make things much easier—and it’s free!
If you find yourself overwhelmed with tasks on your to-do list, Mary Jo says that simple actions can go a long way toward helping set priorities related to your loved one’s care. “For example, if you feel like you're being buried in mail, try going through the mail and sorting it into three piles: “Junk – Toss it," “Important – I want to look at this, but not right now," or “Urgent – Needs immediate attention,” Mary Jo advised.
One of the best things you can do to put on your own oxygen mask first is to get the right help. Life Care Planning Law Firms are a great way to get assistance with all the challenge you’ll encounter on a loved one’s long-term care journey, with all the services you’ll need under one roof. Find a Life Care Planning Law Firm near you.