Thursday, December 31, 2009

Caregiver Tip #4: Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First!

In my last blog, I wrote about the benefits of having a Primary Care Provider--an Internist or a Family Practice Physician who keeps their eye on the bigger picture of our health. (Or a Nurse Practitioner or Physician's Assistant, of course.)

And Miriam wrote to ask if I had one myself......a great question! Yes, I do; he's also a Family Physician, who trained in my program a couple of years ahead of me. There's an old saying that the physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.

But here's a question for all caregivers out there: Do you find that you put your own health on the back burner when faced with the larger issues of your partner's dialysis? What mom hasn't put off some health need of her own, observing a child's need instead?

On an airplane, they always recommend that parents place their own oxygen masks on themselves first before placing their kids' masks!

Why? Well, you're no help to anyone if you've passed out! And this is applicable to all of us.

I remember holding off on my own colonoscopy until I had stopped delivering babies. I was concerned that the "prep" the night before might interfere with managing patients in labor! (Now I would have been right about that one!) But my colonoscopy at age fifty-four (not the recommended fifty) did show pre-cancerous tubular adenomas: a common finding, to be sure. But those "bad boy" polyps are far better in a jar in the lab than in your body!

So, caregivers everywhere:
  • Make sure you have your own Primary Care Provider.
  • Keep up on your own medications.
  • Get your own flu shot.
  • Get your recommended health screenings done.
  • Keep your own body healthy through good nutrition and exercise.
Let's keep ourselves healthy--for ourselves--as well as for the people who depend on us.

Take care. Linda Gromko, MD

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