If you are a caregiver for a loved one, you already know the challenges of that commitment. Taking care of an aging or disabled family member can be rewarding, satisfying, and necessary, but what about the word you hesitate to mention? Caregiving is exhausting! Especially if you have a family, a job, and the day-to-day responsibilities of life.
Caregiver burnout vs compassion Fatigue:
Burnout is a condition we all experience from time to time, but there is a difference between burnout and compassion fatigue. The difference between compassion fatigue and burnout can be hard to sort out. Burnout develops over a longer period and happens when a family caregiver begins to feel overwhelmed by the stress involved in caring for a loved one.
Caregiver compassion fatigue often happens suddenly. One of the main characteristics of compassion fatigue is that a caregiver loses the ability to have compassion for other people. The caregiver becomes unable to feel empathy for people, including the person they are caring for.
Compassion fatigue is considered an occupational hazard in the medical profession and is often the cause of medical professionals leaving the occupation to pursue another career.
But what about the caregiver who is providing long-term care for a beloved parent or family member? The caregiver in this scenario sees no escape from the extreme stress they are feeling. Unlike someone in the workplace, they can’t take a vacation, a day off, or an evening away from the responsibility of caring for their loved one.
Before we can learn how to manage compassion fatigue in caregiving, we must understand the stages of compassion fatigue.
Let’s look at a compassion fatigue test for caregivers and see if we can learn how to cope with compassion fatigue before it becomes overwhelming.
Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms?
- More callous toward your loved one than in the past?
- More irritable to the point of occasional outbursts?
- Breaking down when a perceived crisis takes place?
- Losing confidence in your ability as a caregiver?
- Mood swings or chronic exhaustion?
- Harboring resentment about your responsibility as a caregiver?
- Experiencing anxiety while caring for your loved one?
- Yelling at or neglecting your loved one?
These feelings are a few red flags that a compassion fatigue test reveals.
How to prevent compassion fatigue:
- Be aware of the symptoms.
- Take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, eating a healthy diet, and arranging for time away from the responsibility of caregiving.
- Engage in activities that you love, such as hobbies, spending time with friends, or whatever makes you feel refreshed.
- Keep track of your feelings in a journal.
- Work on your coping strategies. Take a walk, and watch a funny TV show or movie. If you and your loved one feel trapped in the house, try taking a ride, spending time gardening, or going to get an ice cream cone. A change in routine can be a game-changer for both of you.
- Join a caregiver support group.
Download Our Caregiver Stress Guide
All these things can lead to recovery, but if you feel out of control and completely overwhelmed, you should seek help from a medical professional.
There is hope for recovery. The hardest thing to remember as a caregiver is to take care of yourself.