Demands on Caregivers Can Lead to Compassion Fatigue

Caregivers Experience Burnout Even When They Enjoy Their Work

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a well-known phenomenon in the field of mental health. The strain of absorbing other people’s emotions and thoughts on a daily basis takes a toll on even the most professional mental health provider. 

With the rise of helper roles, paid or unpaid, compassion fatigue is spreading to affect larger swathes of the population. Caregivers are at particular risk of burning out, especially those who care for elderly loved ones without pay. This fatigue is exacerbated by the fact that many caregivers are thrown into their roles without regard to their own desire to perform them and without adequate training or preparation. The frustrations of learning by trial and error, family dynamics, and doing a job outside one’s skillset are often burdensome. Add to this the guilt of having these feelings of frustration associated with a much loved parent and his or her need, and it is no surprise that unpaid caregivers are in real distress.

Understand Caregiver Fatigue Before It Starts

The key to preventing caregiver fatigue is to understand it before it becomes a problem. When caregiving for an aging parent, several factors can contribute to feelings of stress that lead to burnout:

  • Lack of support – if other family members are not helping in the day to day care, but want an equal say in making decisions, or criticize the caregiver’s work, the individual providing care may harbor feelings of resentment.
  • Being pulled in many directions – most adults taking care of elderly parents are in the sandwich generation, which means they are caring for their children and still involved in their own careers. Caregivers who have a multitude of demands on their time are prone to exhaustion and stress.
  • Volatile relationships – caregivers who suddenly find themselves helping a parent with whom they have a history of conflict and tension may experience resentment or even anger about their work. Caring for their parent may be especially aggravating if the parent is combative, unappreciative, or critical of how they do things.
  • Fear and self-doubt – many individuals simply feel ill-equipped to provide the best care for their parent, or they live in fear that they will contribute to their parent’s failing health. Caregivers who live in constant fear and insecurity about their ability to help or about their parent’s failing health suffer from energy-draining guilt and ongoing stress.

There are many other reasons that caregivers will feel stressed, exhausted, angry, resentful, or frustrated about providing care for their elderly parents. It’s vital to recognize that these feelings are natural, but that they must be remedied to prevent serious problems. 

Seek Help and Practice Self-Care Before It’s Too Late

The most important way to combat compassion fatigue is to schedule downtime. No one can provide around the clock senior care without breaks. Make sure you have time to be alone, spend time in your own activities, and rest. Caring for others is only possible when the caregiver is healthy, mentally stable, and physically capable.

Other options for making sure you are able to care for yourself while caring for an elderly adult include:

  • Making a schedule – simple organization goes a long way in making sure you attend to necessary tasks and avoid emergencies brought on by forgetting what’s on the calendar.
  • Asking for support – when family dynamics are in play, it’s important to be assertive about stating your own needs. If siblings live out of state, ask them to provide financial support. If local siblings aren’t offering to help, name something specific you need and ask them to do it. Sometimes a lack of support comes from not knowing what needs to be done.
  • Bringing in outside help – consider hiring a service that provides senior homecare so that you can take breaks while knowing that your parent is still receiving quality help and support.
  • Joining a support group – a local or online support group dedicated to caregivers offers an outlet in a safe space where others share similar experiences. Often, the simple act of being validated for your efforts is enough to energize you for another day.

At Simplify Senior Living, we understand that caregivers need compassion and support to avoid burnout. Founder Loretta Shacklett, Certified Senior Advisor®, has a background in Family Counseling and Life Coaching, which makes mental health one of our top priorities. Contact us to explore our senior care options that may provide relief to your caregiving duties, and follow us on Facebook for resources to help you in your journey.

Want to know more about Simplify Senior Living?

Simplify Senior Living LLC is a concierge home help service in Pennsylvania dedicated to providing senior home care that puts quality of life first.  An advocate for seniors and a Certified Senior Advisor experienced in family counseling and life coaching, Simplify Senior Living’s Loretta Shacklett provides emotional support and companionship to clients that prioritizes quality of life while supporting families requiring caregiving services.  We offer daily, weekly, or monthly care packages, providing Home, Lifestyle, and Companionship services.  We serve Montgomery County, the Main Line, Chestnut Hill, and the surrounding areas.

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