Compassion Fatigue in Caregivers
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion fatigue is a stress response that may occur in caregivers with prolonged exposure to the suffering of loved ones. Compassion fatigue is a consequence of the chronic stress involved in caring for loved ones and witnessing their pain and suffering.
Signs of Compassion Fatigue
While specific signs of compassion fatigue vary among caregivers according to personality characteristics and coping style, some common signs include: hopelessness, helplessness, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, emotional disengagement, and apathy.
Consequences of Compassion Fatigue
Caregivers with compassion fatigue may suffer depression, insomnia, eating problems, caregiver strain, and decreased relationship quality with their ill loved ones.
Techniques to Reduce Compassion Fatigue
When you’re caring for an ill loved one, your own self-care becomes a necessity in order to maintain the personal stamina and energy necessary for caregiving. Here are some self-care techniques that can help:
- Monitor your stress levels. Are you feeling irritable, over-eating, and not sleeping? Do you feel guilty about taking care of yourself? Remind yourself that when you are running on empty, you cannot take good care of others.
- Self-care is imperative; it is not optional. Set aside daily “me” time. Schedule a time on your calendar each day to do enjoyable hobbies and activities.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation http://vcc.asu.edu/media/gotoPMRT.mp3, guided imagery http://vcc.asu.edu/media/gotoGIT.MP3 and mindfulness meditation http://marc.ucla.edu/mpeg/03_Complete_Meditation_Instructions.wma
- Keep a journal. Allow yourself to vent freely without judgment or editing.
- Set personal boundaries so you are not completely depleted by your loved one’s suffering.
- Ask for assistance. Tell family/friends what you need and how they can be of help.
- Investigate how community services such as respite programs, adult day programs, and in home-care can help. Check these sites for more information: http://caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/fcn_content_node.jsp?nodeid=2083 http://www.helpguide.org/elder/caring_for_caregivers.htm#community
Arizona State University Virtual Counseling Center http://vcc.asu.edu/index.shtml
UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center