Firefighters approach to Caregiving

While watching one of my favorite shows, NCIS, the medical examiner, Ducky, uses firefighters_01the analogy of a firefighter when discussing the approach to finding a kidnapped girl with Special Agent Gibbs.  “Firefighters never run into a burning building, they walk lest their haste create errors.

The minute I heard this I applied it to family caregiving. You see, as a caregiver you are the firefighters and the person you are caring for is the burning building.

Because of the feeling of chaos associated with meeting the needs of an elderly loved one, running seems to be the only way to keep up with work, family and caregiving responsibilities.  If we don’t run we can’t get it all done.  Just like firefighters being called to a fire, there are times when a critical situation arises and decisions must be made in a short period of time.  In reality, this sense of continuous crisis is just our perception of the situation and not the reality of the challenges we face.

Tips to help you walk:

  • Before Sounding the Alarm – Breathe!  When faced with what seems to be a burning building, stop yourself and inhale.
  • Call for backup – ask friends for their opinion about the situation.  An outside perspective can help to clarify next steps.
  • Watch out for the back draft – when multiple people are involved in caregiving decisions there is usually one person who can take a bonfire and turn it into a 5-alarm fire just by walking into the room.  Stay calm, rational and focus on the facts of the situation not their emotional response to it.
  • Pro-Actively find the nearest Fire-Escape – when you find your stress-o-meter  hitting the boiling point, remove yourself from the situation and re-group.
  • Document all of the choices – Writing things down can also help to clarify available options.

Walking through the situation can shed light on available options, therefore creating more contemplative decisions.

For more resources visit

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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7 Responses to Firefighters approach to Caregiving

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