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Compassion Fatigue & What to Do About It!

By Roger Larson, Director of Development, Restoration 1:99



I had the opportunity to spend a night in an emergency room a few months ago and to witness how the nurses, doctors and other professional technicians literally ran from station to station. This confirmed in my mind the need for some type of training or relief to be offered by their employer. My experience was only one night, but these caregivers live this life every day.


Compassion fatigue is a condition that affects caregivers who become stressed from caring for others. It is caused by empathy and can be thought of as extreme burnout. It doesn’t happen overnight. As days, weeks, and months (and in some cases years) march on with mounting responsibilities, caregivers become overwhelmed physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.


Key indicators of compassion fatigue include sleep loss, feelings of physical, psychological, and emotional exhaustion, hopelessness or powerlessness, irritable feelings, anger, sadness, emotional numbness, being detached from reality, not finding pleasure in things otherwise pleasurable, blaming oneself or having thoughts of not doing enough to reduce others’ suffering, a negative change in world view, loss of appetite, nausea, and dizziness.


Caregivers with compassion fatigue often do not have the energy to deal with the issues that can materialize when caring for a loved one or a client with a terminal illness or other debilitating condition. Is it any wonder that patients suffer, and the caregiver suffers plus feels somehow responsible for the suffering?


It is important for caregivers to recognize and be aware that compassion fatigue is present. If you are a caregiver or know someone who is, and the above signs and symptoms ring true in your life, seek professional help, and let others know you need help. Many experts believe the solution is to stop caregiving, even if it is just for a day. Professional caregivers have regularly scheduled days off and vacation time to help address their personal needs, but that is by no means a “cure.” Family caregivers do not have this luxury, unless other family members are available to help.


These are the reasons R1:99 offers options and suggestions for relief, through our Overcoming Compassion Fatigue: The Cost of Caring (OCF) training and Wellness Workshops for Caregivers. If you or someone you know appears to need support in their caregiving responsibilities, we suggest you sign up for one of our upcoming Wellness Workshops.


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