Putting on your oxygen mask first before helping others takes on a whole new resonance when it comes to caregiving, according to Alexis McKenzie.
McKenzie, an eldercare and wellness expert and consultant, used this common metaphor to emphasize the importance of self-care for caregivers. She spoke with Green House senior director Susan Ryan during a recent episode of the “Elevate Eldercare” podcast about prioritizing the health and wellbeing of caregivers.
Obviously, larger issues such as low pay and working conditions must be addressed, but McKenzie believes the industry can also look at something more basic and intangible — a shift in mindset — to address workforce shortages and burnout.
Developing an attitude of gratitude, staying present, setting boundaries, and avoiding negative rumination are among the ways caregivers can change their perspective, relieve stress, and improve quality of care for all.
McKenzie’s tips aren’t rocket science, but they make so much sense. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise, communicate clearly and write in a journal – small steps that can go a long way toward helping caregivers manage overwhelming demands on their time and resources.
“We have to love ourselves first, then we can give love back to other people,” she said. Reframing how caregivers perceive the world and care for themselves can do a lot toward moving from “hopelessness to hopefulness.”
Mindfulness, being present, and positivity are buzzwords these days for a good reason — mental health is an often-overlooked and undervalued component in eldercare. The panic, fear, anger, and grief caused by global events can wreak havoc on fundamental well-being in all of us. McKenzie said it’s imperative for caregivers to take better care of themselves and be open to new ways of coping with all the pressure.
The Green House Project embraces McKenzie’s unpretentious yet persuasive argument for supporting the eldercare workforce in turbulent times. Her practical tips are low-cost and actionable, yet still tough to accomplish in unprecedented times. But we must try. In a busy, complicated world, take a moment to be still and listen to our bodies and minds. Everyone will reap the benefits.
Listen to the Elevate Eldercare podcast on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, or via The Green House Project’s website, www.thegreenhouseproject.org/podcast.