Tag Archives: Caregiver burnout

Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue?

Worn out by Compassion Fatigue?

Worn out by Compassion Fatigue?

Caring for a child, a disabled sibling, an ailing spouse or an elderly parent can take a huge emotional toll on the caregiver.  Caregiving is an act of compassion that can lead one to an unsustainable level of selflessness; and in this selflessness, cause damaging, long-term effects on the caregiver.  Whether you believe asking for help is a sign of weakness or have convinced yourself that you are the only one capable of adequately providing the level of care you perceive is needed, you unwittingly set yourself up for experiencing the exhaustion, stress, frustration and isolation that it can create.

In medical circles, the ultimate fatigue and burnout that this situation can create is referred to as ‘Compassion Fatigue’.  This develops out of the demanding nature of showing ongoing compassion for somebody whose circumstances are likely not going to improve.  The caregiver may go through the motions of continuing to care for the loved one but, over time, the compassion diminishes.

In the worst case scenario, this can lead to neglect and/or abuse of the loved one requiring the care!

Some of the warning signs that you may be suffering from compassion fatigue are:  Abusing drugs, alcohol or food; anger; blaming; depression; hopelessness; emotional and/or physical exhaustion; GI complaints; frequent headaches; sleep disturbance; diminished sense of personal accomplishment; increase irritability and; less ability to feel joy.

Caregivers need, and deserve, a healthy personal life.  When a caregiver makes the effort to keep a balance between their empathy and their objectivity, they are able to realize the need for and to create a healthier self-care plan.

Set aside some time to nurture yourself.  When the caregiver is rested, energized and in a positive frame of mine, the caregiving load becomes a bit lighter.  Taking this time for yourself may feel selfish and unnatural at first, but commit to doing at least one thing each day that is focused on your enjoyment and benefits your sense of well-being.

Identify the things about caregiving that cause you the most stress.  Look for ways to eliminate them as much as possible or make sure that you create a routine that allows you to balance those activities with things that you may enjoy or at least find less stressful.  Don’t line up all of the stressful activities in a row; break them up and spread them out!

When you are feeling overwhelmed and are juggling too many balls in the air, know your limits.  That’s the time to take a moment to prioritize those ‘to-do’ items and determine what really must be done and what can wait awhile or be eliminated altogether.  Taking these few moments to do this may give you back a small feeling of control in the situation and help to eliminate some of the frustration.

Validate your commitment to providing good care to your loved one by reaching out for some help!  Preventing ‘compassion fatigue’ is going to allow you to provide the good care that you want to offer.  Far from being a weakness, asking for the help you require is a sign of strength in knowing what your own needs are.

So, do more than just survive the emotional grinder of caregiving.  Prevent compassion fatigue by keeping your own needs as part of the caregiver equation.  Both you and your loved one will reap the benefits!

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Caregiver Guilt: Your Inner Judge and Jury

Kathy Eynon, Parent Care Alliance

Feeling Guilty?

I doubt that there are many things that caregivers do better than guilt.  Whether you are caring for an elderly parent, your children or another loved one, you likely have experienced this to a greater or lesser degree at some point.

Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving according to humorist Erma Bombeck.  There is no doubt that guilt can be a very powerful driver in our lives.

And as caregivers, aren’t there just a vast number of things that we can use to feed that guilt!!

You may feel guilty when you lose your patience with your elderly mother or perhaps you have been complaining about not having enough sleep or time for yourself.  You feel guilty when Dad asks when you are coming again to see him or calls you for the 4th time in an hour and you don’t pick up the phone.  Maybe you didn’t get a particular task done when you hoped you would or let something fall between the cracks.

Most humans, especially caregivers, are extremely good at taking on all of the expectations of not just our cultures and possibly our religions, but also our families as well!  Add to that jury the toughest critic of all, you, and you have quite a crowd mulling around in your head!  And they become quite good at sharing what they thing about something that you have done or have failed to do.

Of course not all guilt is bad.  Good guilt causes us to examine ourselves and make a change in our behavior if it is needed.  This might be the guilt you experience when you lose your patience with a loved one who has dementia and you have responded negatively to something that they can no longer control.  At times like this, guilt may be the poke you need to, perhaps, try a little harder next time.

But bad guilt doesn’t usually have a constructive side.  This is the guilt you feel over a situation that you cannot change or control; or, over something that is actually positive for you the caregiver.  Perhaps your mother must go into rehab after she has fallen and broken a hip.  She doesn’t like it there and repeatedly makes you aware of that.  Can you feel the guilt building?

Or, maybe you are finally making arrangements to go away for a much needed, and deserved, vacation and your father is fighting you about bringing in some respite care to take over while you are gone.  Is the pit in your stomach tightening yet?

And some caregivers even feel the need to experience guilt because they are experiencing happiness!  Did you ever take a step away from the caregiving to go out for a nice dinner and find yourself feeling guilty about enjoying yourself?  Then you know about Happiness Guilt.

Yes, guilt loves high standards.  But guess what, life happens.  Nobody is perfect.  And no matter how much you love the person you are caring for you are not going to be able to prevent every fall or illness.  A bill might get missed and your temper may spill over at times.  Don’t let the small list of things that slip by get overshadowed in your mind by the long list of things that don’t.  Being a good caregiver 80-90% of the time may be a more realistic expectation!

So, challenge your inner jury.  Push back with a good defense and know that you are doing the best that you can.

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.

Preventing Caregiver Burnout – Find Your Tribe

Being a caregiver for an elderly parent can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed.  One thing that I encourage people to do is to find their tribe.  This is a person or group of people that can help be your ‘judgment free zone’; your safe place to fall when you have reached the end of your rope…….

 

 

Making this a priority could be the thing that saves you from being taken under by your caregiving role!  Remember to put yourself at the top of the list at least sometimes!

On the journey with you,

Kathy

 

Caregiving 911: How Planning Helps When the Train Wreck Occurs

Kathy Eynon, Parent Care AllianceAt any given time there are 65.7 million people caring for an aging parent, relative or loved one in the U.S.  78% of caregivers report that they want more help or information but don’t know where to turn.  I know that I was never a genius in math, but by my calculations that comes to over 50 million caregivers that would welcome more help! 

Caregivers struggle for a variety of reasons.  From issues like denial, to acting like the Lone Ranger, the stress can be very real and very overwhelming and caregiver burnout is a sad reality for many.

With the technologies of the day, we all have information at our fingertips.  Whether you use Google, Bing or some other search engine, you can search and access a great deal of that information from the comfort of your home.  And there are countless books with great information presented in them that serve as wonderful reference guides. 

But, the biggest issue that I encounter in my work with clients is that few folks actually take the time to utilize those resources to plan for the coming challenges.  It is very often not until they are in the midst of a crisis that caregivers start to scramble for the resources that they need.

If I could communicate just one brilliant idea in this post, it would be this:  Don’t wait for the train wreck to happen before you think about what you will do when the train wrecks!  First responders in emergency situations train over and over again so that they know exactly what to do when the crisis occurs.  If you do your ‘training’ before your crisis, you have more control over the outcomes.  You relinquish your right to options when you fail to plan ahead.

And since 70% of folks who reach the age of 65 will require some form of care assistance in the future, pretending that it won’t happen is much like being an ostrich with your head in the sand!

Helping your parents plan can be a challenge and they may resist your offers of assistance.  But even when they will not let you intervene, your hands are not totally tied.  You can still plan for things like:  what will happen if Mom falls and has to go to a facility; what if you have to sell Dad’s house to pay for care; who would you call if home care is needed?  You can still create your ‘go to’ plan so that you are ready to roll when the train wreck happens.

And if you are aging and trying to plan for your own future, there are lots of ways to make things easier on your future caregivers:  Get legal documents prepared; communicate your wishes regarding end-of-life care; let your family know where they can find all of the information that they might need in the event that you can no longer act on your own behalf.  Don’t leave them wondering!

Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  Caring for aging loved ones is something at which we should not fail!  Don’t just gather information:  Act on it.  Find the help and resources you need to create a good plan so that you know what to do when called on as a first responder to your family crisis.

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.

Preventing Caregiver Burnout – Saying ‘No’ to Your Parent

Caregivers have a lot on their plates.  And while you can gather information, read articles and books and arm yourself with tools, you will continue to risk caregiver burnout until you make the decision that YOU matter too!

Sometimes that means learning how to say ‘No’ to your elderly parent and realize that ‘No’ really is an answer!

On the journey with you,

Kathy

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.