The DELTA Doctrine For Caregivers

The "Delta Doctrine" isn't selfish, it's smart. 
Guest post by Peter W. Rosenberger, speaker, author,  caregiver for 27-plus years and President of Standing With Hope

While flying Delta Airlines to Atlanta one day, I heard the flight attendant give the best advice I had ever heard for caregivers:

“In the unlikely event of a loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Securely place your mask on first before helping anyone next to you who may need assistance.”

That small directive, which I’m sure many of us have heard before and which I now call the “The Delta Doctrine,” contains applicable wisdom for so many life circumstances, but probably none as poignant as for those of us serving as a caregiver.

Compassion and love often mistakenly lead us to hold our own breath while trying to help someone else breathe, but if we do, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves gasping for air. If we are unable to breathe, how can we help anyone else?

Many of America’s 65 million caregivers desperately try to assist a vulnerable loved one while growing dangerously close to “blacking out” themselves. Grabbing the mask first is not a sign of selfishness, but rather a whisper of wisdom. Unfortunately, that soft voice is hard to hear over the often deafening cries of someone we love.

When the turbulence of caregiving hits, three simple things can immediately help to calm me down and make healthier and wiser decisions: Wait, water, walk.

Wait: Take a moment before responding. Regardless of the culprit (pain, finances, your loved one’s poor attitude), if you choose to pick up the emotional tug-of-war rope two things could happen: you could “win” and end up on your rear or “lose” and end up on your face. Don’t pick up the rope! Rarely will you need to apologize or make amends for something you didn’t say. Breathe slowly until you’re calmer. Stress and anger are toxic to good decisions.

Water: Simply drink cool water. It will buy you time to think a little more clearly. Avoid sugary drinks and even coffee. Your body needs water, and your brain needs water. From high blood pressure to fatigue, water helps a myriad of issues. A fortified brain functions better. Drink to think!

Walk: Caregiving creates stress, so when things are bouncing off the walls, make the time to put on comfortable shoes and walk off some of the tension. You truly are putting on the mask first, getting fresh oxygen to your body and brain and working off anxiety. Walking immediately soothes the body and mind, allowing you to bring your best to caregiving.

These simple steps cost virtually nothing, yet they can save so much heartache. Bleeding off stress is the first step of "grabbing the mask for yourself." The Delta Doctrine isn't selfish, it's smart. Your loved one's life will not improve if their primary caregiver becomes unhealthy—physically, emotionally, or financially. I've been told to "take care of myself" for years, but no one provided a map or even practical first steps to help me understand what that looked like. The Delta Doctrine is the first step towards equipping fellow caregivers with practical and inexpensive ways to immediately strengthen their weary hearts—while directing them towards living healthier lives.

Peter W. Rosenberger draws upon his vast experience in caring for his wife for 27-plus years through her now 78 operations, multiple amputations, 60-plus doctors, 12 hospitals and $9 million in medical costs. In addition to serving as the president of Standing With Hope, the prosthetic limb outreach to West Africa that he and his wife launched, he also hosts a weekly radio show for caregivers. Peter's newest book is titled, "Wear Comfortable Shoes-Surviving and Thriving as A Caregiver." Peter and Jeff Foxworthy recently teamed up to do a hilarious video for AARP, “You Might be a Caregiver if …” For more information visit

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About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visit to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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