Updated: Jul 15

Compassion fatigue can hurt caregivers

Caregiving is an all-consuming responsibility, whether you're doing hands-on personal care or managing care from a distance.

That can put you at risk for compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue can be a side effect of caring for someone in need. It causes physical and emotional exhaustion and reduces the ability to empathize.

It's common in doctors, nurses, and other health professionals and is called secondary traumatic stress. You basically get stressed from continually helping or wanting to help others who are suffering.

If it's not managed, compassion fatigue significantly worsens your health and well-being.

It also reduces your ability to care for your older adult. You can't be engaged, warm, and caring because you just don't have it in you anymore.

To protect yourself, it's essential to learn good self-care strategies and coping techniques.

We explain how it's different from caregiver burnout, share the symptoms to watch for, and give 8 tips for how to cope with compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue vs burnout

Compassion fatigue and burnout have similar symptoms, but there are some key differences.

Burnout usually develops over time. Top signs of burnout include emotional and physical exhaustion, feelings of negativity and indifference, and felling like you're not getting the job done.

Compassion fatigue happens when you become traumatized by your older adult's suffering. It can come on more quickly than burnout.

You may still feel empathy and the desire to help, but you might feel overwhelmed by the symptoms. It can also lead to burnout.

Common signs of compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue is basically a chronic, low level cloud over the care and concern you have for your older adult.

When you overuse your compassion without Taking time to regularly recharge, the ability to feel and care for others becomes worn down.

Common Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue include:

  • Physical or emotional exhaustion (or both)

  • Reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy

  • Dreading taking care or someone and feeling guilty about it

  • Feeling irritable, angry, or anxious

  • Headaches

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Isolating yourself

  • Feeling disconnected

  • Reduced sense of accomplishment or meaning in caregiving

  • Trouble making decisions

  • Problems in personal relationships

How to cope with compassion fatigue:8 ways to improve caregiver health

1. Be aware of changes in your level of compassion fatigue

Your level of stress and how you feel about caregivingcan change from day to day and may also depend on your older adult's health.

By regularly making notes on how you're feeling, you can track your stress and compassion fatigue levels over time.

You could try rating how you feel on a scale of 1-10.

For example, if you're usually feeling irritated and overwhelmed as well as having trouble sleeping due worry, you might decide that you're at a 7 and jot down a few top symptoms.

The scale is up to you - a 1 could mean no symptoms at all, a 5 could be a variety of symptoms that come and go, and a 10 could be that your symptoms are so severe and unrelenting that your health is at serious risk.

Keeping eye on your compassion fatigue levels and top symptoms helps you notice and take action before you reach a severe stage, like a 9 or 10.

2.Make self-care a priority

Taking care of yourself isn't luxury. Self-care is essential for long term caregiving. It keeps you mentally and physically healthy and protects against compassion fatigue.

It might feel selfish to take time for yourself, but if you're run-down, overwhelmed, and have a short temper, that will definitely come through when you're caring for your older adult.

When you're feeling healthy, you're able to be a better caregiver.

Each person has a different way of taking care of themselves, but in general, you'd probably want to:

  • regularly

  • Eat a healthy diet

  • Have a good sleep routine and get as high-quality sleep as possible

  • Take time for yourself each day-even if it's only 10 minutes.

  • Get help with caregiving or household tasks

  • Find ways to take breaks from caregiving-like using respite care

3. Spend time with friends

An important part of maintaining balance while caregiving is to keep up your social connections. This helps prevent loneliness, isolation and depression.

Spending time with friends chatting, sharing a meal, or taking a walk together are great ways to de-stress and take your mind away from caregiving worries.

4. Join caregiver support groups

Caregiver support groups are filled with people in similar situations-they'll truly understand what you're going through.

Participating in online or in-person caregiver support groups can significantly improve your quality of life because you'll feel less alone and be able to get advice on handling difficult situations, vent frustrations, learn new coping skills, and more.

5. Write in a journal

An effective stress reduction technique that's perfect for caregivers is journaling.

Getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper and out of your head has been found to be very therapeutic.

Journaling helps you process thoughts and emotions and can even help you find solutions to challenges or make tough decisions.

Plus, writing in a journal is free, takes as much or as little time as you've got, and can be done anywhere.

6. Use positive ways to cope with stress

After a tough day it's tempting to plop down in front of the TV with a bag of chips or cookies and a bottle of wine, but those aren't positive coping techniques.

Instead, put together a list of go-to copies strategies that are positive and healthy.

The idea is to do things that will make you feel better in the short term and improve your health and well-being in the long term.

Suggestions for Healthy Coping strategies:

  • Take a walk

  • Meditate

  • Do a 4 minute workout

  • Practice some deep breathing

  • Call, Text, or visit with a friend

  • Watch some funny video clips on YouTube

  • Take a hot bath or shower

  • Get additional suggestions on how to de-stress

7. Spend time on hobbies

Before you were a caregiver, there were hobbies and activities that you enjoyed.

Regularly taking time for those activities is a great way to take a break from caring for your older adult.

This improves quality of life and reduces the risk of compassion fatigue because it's something fun and creative that you do just for yourself-and isn't related to caregiving, work, or chores.

8. Speak with a counselor or therapist

If your compassion fatigue levels are increasing, talking with a counselor or therapist can bring relief.

They help people deal with negative thinking, stress, depression, anxiety, major life changes, and more.

A therapist can guide you toward effective ways to reduce compassion fatigue and manage the tough emotions that come with being a caregiver.

Updated: Jul 15

As we age, the risk a falling increases. But in an older adult, a fall doesn't just cause physical injury. It can also cause a loss of confidence, which can then lead to more falls in the future. Here, ElWell shares 4 steps that help older adults take control and regain confidence after a fall.

When an older adult falls, we're usually most concerned about any physical injuries and don't often consider the emotional impact of the fall.

For older adults, falling often makes them feel less able on their feet. Frequent falls or if a fall resulted in serious injuries, it could understandably cause a fear of falling.

So, to avoid falling at all costs, they reduce their level of activity r make other changes to their lifestyle.

But did you know that this fear of falling can actually lead to an increased risk of falls?

That's because they're less likely to be leading an active lifestyle in order to avoid situations that might cause a fall (like going for walks, taking the stairs, or exercising regularly).

Choosing to be less active can weaken the muscles that are needed for strength and balance - the muscles needed to prevent falls.

The good news is that it is possible for seniors to reverse this fear of falling.

Here are four steps to helping an older adult regain confidence after a fall.

1. Talk about the fall in a sensitive manner

Understand their concerns by speaking about the fall - don't avoid the subject.

Listen to their worries to show that you're taking them seriously.

Together with their input, use these conversations to identify why the fall happened and consider possible solutions to reduce future falls.

Help them see the fall more objectively, not just as an act that has caused anxiety or reduced their independence.

Maybe they tripped on a curb, so a walking stick could help give more support in the future.

Perhaps they just felt their muscles or balance give way and would benefit from some simple strength and balance exercises?

2.Set reasonable goals

To overcome their loss of confidence, work together to determine an achievable goal to work towards - something small and manageable, which can later be built upon.

This might be "I want to walk a circle around the entire garden on my pwn in 6 weeks"or "I want to firmly hold the handrail and walk steadily down these stairs in three weeks."

3. Use measurable targets

Work together to set smaller targets which lead to the end goal.

Taking the above example how far would they need to walk each week and who will help support them and prevent any falls while they're in "TRAINING" and need help with balance.


When the goal date arrive, evaluate their progress.

How did they do? Did they achieve the goal?

If they didn't reach their goal, what prevented that from happening and what did they achieve instead?

Encouragement is essential, so remember to recognize your older adult's hard work and accomplishments and show your ongoing support.

By: Daily Care



© 2018 by Volunteer Services

Proudly created with Wix.com