Caring for loved ones is a gift we give every day to those around us. Whether it’s picking up groceries, cooking dinner, picking up prescriptions, or assisting with bathing and grooming, caregivers do it all. When a loved one is nearing the end of life, caregivers will do everything possible to make them as comfortable as they can. Unfortunately, because caregivers frequently are burning the candle at both ends, compassion fatigue can oftentimes be the end result.
What is Compassion Fatigue?
When caregivers are overburdened by caring for others, they experience compassion fatigue. The stress that comes from caring and helping those in need is a natural consequence. We can think of compassion fatigue as a form of extreme burnout, and it does not happen overnight. Caregivers often become overwhelmed physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially as the days, weeks, and months (sometimes even years) go by.
When caring for an aging loved one, caregivers experiencing compassion fatigue are often unable to deal with all the issues that can arise. Ultimately, both the caregivers and the ones receiving care suffer as a result. Caretakers and their extended families need to be aware of the signs and symptoms when it comes to this stress disorder. Lack of sleep is one of the most obvious symptoms, but compassion fatigue can also manifest in the following ways:
- Decreased ability to function
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- Cancellation of plans
- Increased aches and pains
- Boredom and apathy
- Problems with memory
What can be done to combat compassion fatigue?
Recognizing and being aware of compassion fatigue is the first step to overcoming it. You should seek professional help if any of the above signs and symptoms apply to you. As a caregiver, what can you do in practical terms as a quick fix? Below are some suggestions that can help:
- Give yourself a half-day off. Start with a half-day if a full-day break isn’t feasible. However long of a break you decide on, it shouldn’t be a one-time event. Regular half-day breaks are important for caregivers to prevent compassion fatigue.
- Get in touch with a family member or friend. Help your loved one by enlisting the assistance of another family member. It would be even better if you could rotate assistance.
- Restore balance to your life. Caregivers often set unrealistic goals and they may also be asked to do too much. Caregivers are often assigned numerous tasks by multiple parties, as well. Set clear boundaries and be prepared to take action if they are crossed.
- Take some time for yourself. We can give others the happiness they deserve if we take care of ourselves. It is also good to note that caregiver frustration is not a sign of weakness or failure. It is just simply necessary to take a break every so often. It’s important to remember that taking care of oneself is not selfish, and this is necessary in order to stay balanced.
- Be honest about your feelings. It is critical that caregivers are aware of their inner and outer feelings in order to avoid compassion fatigue. Talking to someone or writing about the entire experience in a journal can be helpful in expressing feelings.
- Taking a few deep breaths can help you to relax. Deep breathing exercises can help caregivers reduce stress and refocus. Unsure where to begin? Many smartphone apps can help by providing deep breathing assistance.
If you are currently experiencing compassion fatigue or feel overwhelmed, reach out to Care Right at 800-741-0302. We are more than happy to schedule a free consultation to discuss how you and your family can bring balance back to your life.