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Understanding and Managing Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue may come as a surprise to family caregivers.

Caregivers dedicate so much of themselves to the ones they care for – both emotionally and physically. It’s common to become wiped out and to start to experience feelings like indifference, exhaustion, and a withdrawal from the person in your care. Referred to as compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress, it can be detrimental to your own wellbeing but can also influence your ability to be as nurturing, warm, and caring as you should be for the person you’re caring for.

As opposed to caregiver burnout, which occurs progressively over time, compassion fatigue may develop abruptly and unexpectedly. You may truly want to continue providing care and support, but you basically feel too weighed down. 

If you feel any of the symptoms below, compassion fatigue could be the reason:

  • Exhaustion (physically, mentally, or both)
  • Dreading your care obligations, together with feelings of guilt
  • Irritability, anger, and/or anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Less feelings of empathy or sympathy for the person in your care
  • Isolation and disconnection from family, friends, and enjoyable activities
  • Problems with other relationships
  • Problems with decision making
  • Wondering whether you’re achieving anything with your caregiving work

How to Conquer Compassion Fatigue

If the list of symptoms above sounds like what you’re experiencing, there are steps you can take to help:

  • Place a numeric value on your feelings. Take a quick self-assessment by rating how you’re feeling every day on a scale of 1 – 10. If you are finding yourself in the 9 –      10 range of compassion fatigue signs, talk with a professional therapist.
  • Take time for self-care. Taking proper care of yourself is not selfish; it’s essential for your own health as well as the wellbeing of the person in your care. Make it a priority every day to spend time in pleasurable activities, physical exercise, healthy      eating, and conversations with family and friends.
  • Find support. Connect with a caregiver support group, either in person or virtually, to allow you to work through your feelings with others who can empathize and can share management techniques that are working well for them.
  • Write it down. Journaling is a fantastic way to let go of stress and sort through complicated emotions and decisions. Reading back over your writings will allow you to keep track of any patterns in your emotions. Maybe you feel most worn down late in the afternoon and can reserve a few minutes each day at that time to meditate, pray, listen to soothing music, take a walk – whatever works best to help you de-stress.

At CareFor, the leading provider of in-home care in San Marcos, TX and the encompassing areas, we’re always here to help you work through compassion fatigue by serving as a trusted partner in care. Our personalized in-home care services provide seniors with the enjoyment of a friendly companion, while offering you much-needed time to yourself. Call us at (512) 338-4533 to learn more!