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Caregiving Chronicles

News and analysis on caregiving topics in MetroWest and beyond.

Caregiving Chronicles

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Caregiving Chronicles will present news and analysis on caregiving topics in MetroWest and around the world, in-depth Q&As with experts in fields related to caregiving and updates and announcements about caregiving resources available in MetroWest from CaregivingMetroWest.org Program Director Douglas Flynn.


Caregiving Tip of the Month: Understanding Caregiver Burnout vs. Compassion Fatigue
By DebraMcDonagh / February 29, 2020

Compassion Fatigue:

I came across an article on www.agingcare.com written by Carol Bradley Bursack entitled, Compassion Fatigue: When Caregivers Go Beyond Burnout. The article explains that most caregivers have heard about burnout, but that many are unfamiliar with the concept of compassion fatigue or how these two conditions differ.

When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions, and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labeled: Compassion Fatigue.

Extreme and prolonged stress produces feelings of hopelessness, indifference, pessimism, a lack of empathy, and overall disinterest in other people's issues.

The caregiver seems to develop compassion fatigue after months or years of seemingly endless caregiving responsibilities. When a caregiver suddenly feels a total sense of detachment from their care recipient, the condition escalates and causes resentment, guilt, and a diminished sense of self.

Warning Signs of Compassion Fatigue:

  • Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and drained
  • Avoidance and not wanting to be around your loved one (choosing to work late, daydreaming about no longer having to care for them, etc.)
  • A decrease in patience and tolerance
  • Angry outbursts that are uncharacteristic of your behavior
  • Cynicism and hopelessness
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Impaired ability to make care decisions

If you feel this way, it is time to step back from your caregiving role. You are putting yourself and your care recipient at risk of physical harm and severe health risks. According to dailycaring.com, if your compassion fatigue levels are increasing, talking with a counselor or therapist can bring relief. Therapy guides you on how to cope with negative thinking, stress, depression, and anxiety. A therapist can guide you toward practical ways to reduce compassion fatigue and manage the tough emotions that come with being a caregiver. Read the full article for many more tips, advice, and resources. How to Cope with Compassion Fatigue: 8 Tips for Caregivers.

Caregiver Burnout

Healthline shared an article entitled: How to Care for Yourself When You Have Caregiver Burnout, which was written by Nancy Moyer, MD, and medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., RN, CRNA.

The article defines caregiver burnout as the feeling of being overwhelmed. Feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted from the stress and burden of caring for their loved ones. The caregiver starts to feel alone, unsupported, or unappreciated.

You still care, but you're losing the energy to continue the daily responsibilities of the role. Almost every caretaker experiences burnout at some point, but when not addressed, the level of care provided does diminish.

General warning signs and symptoms for caregiver burnout include:

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Avoiding people
  • Exhaustion/irritability
  • Feeling you're losing control of your life
  • Neglecting your needs and health

It's essential to be aware of the warning signs of caretaker burnout and recognize when you have them.

What can you do to prevent Caregiver Burnout from escalating into Compassion Fatigue?

The Healthline article provides several tips for family caregivers to set boundaries, ask for help and maintain their health.

Ask others for help. Remember that you don't have to do everything. It's OK to ask friends and family to do some of your caretaking tasks. Talking about what you're going through and getting support from family and friends helps you process your feelings and emotions. Holding everything in can make you depressed and contribute to feeling overwhelmed. Consider seeking professional counseling, if necessary. We offer tips on how to ask for help and how to set boundaries.

Be honest with yourself. Know what you can and can't do. Do the tasks that you can, and delegate the rest to others. Say no when you think a job will be too stressful or you don't have time to do it.

Talk to other caregivers. Sharing your experience helps you to both get support, but also allows you to give support and encouragement to others going through something similar. Visit our website for a list of caregiver support groups in MetroWest.

Take regular breaks. Breaks help relieve some of your stress and restore your energy. Use the time to do the things that relax you and improve your mood. Even five-minute breaks can help.

Avoid Isolating. When you do have some "you time", meet up with friends, or go out for exercise or pursue a hobby. By doing things you enjoy, you are positioning yourself not to feel all alone and provide a sense of happiness rather than hopelessness.

Pay attention to your feelings and needs. It's easy to forget to take care of your needs when you're a caretaker. It's essential to focus on yourself regularly throughout the day, as well as looking out for your loved one.

Take care of your health. Keep your regular doctor appointments, including for preventive care, take your medications, and see your doctor when you feel sick. If you aren't healthy, you can't take care of someone else.

Eat a healthy diet. Eating nutritious meals improves energy and stamina. But, if you find you are not eating in a way that a dietitian would be proud of -- still avoid junk food or deeply processed food, and too much caffeine.

Exercise. Exercising is a great way to relieve stress, increase energy, and take time for yourself. It can also improve depression. Even a walk around the block counts!

Maintain your sleep schedule. Getting enough rest is vital for your well-being and to maintain your stamina.

Take Family leave. If you work and are starting to feel like you cannot do both, use the family leave benefits available to you.

Consider respite care. When you need a break, using respite care for a few hours is an option in most places. We offer a list of respite services on our website. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, consider attending memory cafes with them. Its a nice break for both of you. We offer a list of MetroWest Memory Cafes.



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BayPath Elder Services, Inc

Caregiving MetroWest is a no-cost program of BayPath Elder Services, Inc. and was made possible in part by grants from the MetroWest Health Foundation.

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BayPath Elder Services, Inc.'s Family Caregiver Support Program and Caregiving MetroWest are grateful for the generous support of our community partner, Avidia Bank, which helps us continue to give area family caregivers the information, resources and support they need.