Caregivers, Put Your Own Mask On First

oxygen maskWe have all boarded an airplane to fly somewhere only to have the flight attendants direct our attention to the video explaining their emergency procedures. They usually go on to say, “In the unlikely event of a loss in cabin pressure, your oxygen masks will fall from the compartment above your seat. Reach up and pull down on the mask until the tubing is fully extended. Place the mask over your nose and mouth, secure it with the elastic band and breathe normally. The oxygen bag may not appear to inflate, however, oxygen is flowing. For those of you traveling with small children, adjust your mask first and then assist the child.”
That is the most selfish thing I have ever heard! Can you imagine, telling a parent to put their mask on first, when their little bundle of joy is sitting right next to them gasping for air? I wonder how many parents actually follow directions in an emergency and put their mask on first? I suspect that many have disobeyed. I know they have been told again and again every time they board a flight that same message. How could passengers possibly obey the flight attendant’s unreasonable and selfish instructions against our little child? We would gladly throw ourselves in front of a speeding locomotive for that little one.

In fact, I don’t even know if I can be trusted to follow directions about the oxygen mask if my frightened little girl was screaming at me to help her with her mask before I was able to put on mine. How can you know what you would do in a real emergency as your plane is diving down into the ocean, and DaveNoHatSittingShadowCroppedscreams surround you in the cabin while the engine is in flames? What is the purpose of that silly rule anyway?
I can safely assume that before they made this instruction on airlines, they discovered that passengers were blacking out in the process of helping their kids and other needy passengers with their masks. Obviously, if you are blacked out, you cannot help anyone, especially yourself. This is a great analogy that paints a vivid picture of the way we caregivers do not prioritize our self-care, which can be deadly for us..
Self-care can take a variety of forms: a nice hot bath, coffee with your best friend, sleeping in all day, a massage, a movie with a friend, dinner at a fancy restaurant, a weekend cruise, or anything that you wish you could do but would feel really guilty if you did.
Plan in advance, and ask someone for help, so you can arrange much needed breaks. You can find someone who may not provide as good a care to your loved one as you would, but that is okay. As long as it is adequate care, don’t feel guilty when your care receiver complains that the substitute caregiver didn’t serve the coffee hot enough, or they were talking on the phone too much. Explain to them (and know for yourself) that your care is probably the best care they will ever receive from anyone, however, unless you can take breaks and depend on this substitute person’s “adequate” care, then your loved one could be receiving no care at all because you may probably burnout. Don’t allow your care receiver to be so demanding of you that you are sacrificing your health for theirs. Both lives are equally important.