Is It Caregiver Burnout or Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue affects many family caregivers and can put strain on your relationship with your loved ones.

Care providers devote so much of themselves to those they care for – both physically and emotionally. It’s common to become worn down and to start to experience feelings such as apathy, weariness, and a detachment from the person in your care. Referred to as compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress, it can be harmful to your own health and wellbeing but may also impact your ability to be as caring, warm, and nurturing as you need to be for the person you love.

In contrast to caregiver burnout, which develops gradually over time, compassion fatigue may arise abruptly and unexpectedly. You might genuinely want to continue providing care and support, but you basically feel too overwhelmed.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, compassion fatigue could be the culprit:

  • Fatigue (physically, mentally, or both)
  • Dreading your care tasks, along with feelings of guilt
  • Anger, irritability, and/or anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Reduced feelings of empathy or sympathy for the person in your care
  • Isolation and disconnection from friends, family, and pleasant activities
  • Difficulties with other relationships
  • Decision-making difficulties
  • Second-guessing whether you’re achieving anything with your caregiving work

How to Alleviate Compassion Fatigue

If the outline above matches what you’re experiencing, there are actions you can take to help.

  • Rate your feelings. Perform a simple self-assessment by ranking how you’re feeling each day on a scale of 1 – 10. If you are finding your answers in the 9 –      10 scope of compassion fatigue signs, schedule an appointment with a professional therapist.
  • Prioritize time for self-care. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s essential for your own health as well as the health and wellbeing of the person in your care. Make it a top priority every single day to engage in pleasurable activities, exercise, healthy eating, and conversations with family and friends.
  • Get support. Sign up with a caregiver support group, whether in person or online, to allow you to talk about your feelings with others who can empathize and can share coping techniques that are working well for them.
  • Practice journaling. Journaling is a great way to let go of stress and work through challenging emotions and decisions. Looking back over your entries will allow you to pick up on any patterns in your emotions. Perhaps you feel most fatigued late in the afternoon, and can reserve a few minutes each day at that time to pray, meditate, listen to soothing music, take a walk – whatever works best to help you de-stress.

At Advanced Home Health Care, the leading provider of senior care and memory care in Burlington and the nearby areas, we’re on hand to help you alleviate compassion fatigue by serving as your partner in care. Our personalized in-home care services provide seniors with the pleasure of a friendly companion, while giving you much-needed time to yourself. Call us at 319.753.6270 to learn more!

The Care You Need. The Quality You Deserve.