Compassion fatigue is the result of a daily caregiving environment that provides consistent emotional challenge to a caregiver. It is the impact of emotional, physical, and spiritual distress in those providing care to another. A common symptom of compassion fatigue is an elevated level of chronic stress from caregiving, often as a result of always putting another’s needs before your own.
Compassion fatigue is a very common occurrence for hospice caregivers. This can be especially difficult for someone serving a loved one in hospice care. There is an enormous amount of stress, uncertainty, and emotional toll from the hospice situation that can impact a caregiver negatively. Feeling this way does not make a caregiver a bad person. It doesn’t mean you no longer care, only that your compassion is overwhelmed and stretched to the point of failure. Fortunately, there are ways you can lessen compassion fatigue. But first, it’s important to review the symptoms of compassion fatigue to see if you or a loved one is potentially suffering.
Compassion Fatigue Symptoms
Below are 10 of the most common symptoms of compassion fatigue.
- Excessive Blaming of Others
- Feelings of Irritability, Anger, or Anxiety
- Self-preservative Denial
- Isolating from Others
- Dreading Caretaker Duties and Guilt for Feelings
- Ignoring Self Care (Sustenance, Hygiene, Sleep, Appearance)
- Chronic Exhaustion
- Loss of Enjoyment in Pleasurable Activities
- Apathy, Sadness
- Self-Medication by Substance Abuse
Tips for Dealing with Compassion Fatigue
Ideally, prevention is the best plan for dealing with compassion fatigue. It is much easier to prevent the onset of compassion fatigue while caring for a loved one in hospice care than combat the symptoms while caring for your loved one. The tips below can help you identify, prevent, and help manage symptoms of compassion fatigue.
Compassion Fatigue Symptom Awareness
The first tip is to be knowledgable of the symptoms and practicing self awareness. It can be helpful to review the symptoms in regards to your personal status on a 1-10 scale. If your number grows high it is time to consider action to improve the feeling.
You may initially feel selfish about taking care of yourself over caring for a loved one. Follow the airplane safety mantra of “secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” You need to take care of yourself so that you can fully care for someone else. You should make the effort to maintain a balanced diet, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, and provide yourself time to decompress from caregiving and work demands.
Protect Your Emotional Wellbeing
Compassion and empathy are at the core of caregiver service. However, this can lead to a caregiver taking on another’s pain and being overwhelmed by the situation. Setting firm emotional boundaries can help you remain supportive and compassionate while remaining your own person with your own personal needs. View this resource to learn more about setting healthy boundaries to benefit yourself and your loved one.
Get Outside the Bubble
As a caregiver for a loved one, you may find the bubble of your life shrinking to only include your work, basic needs, and caregiving. To improve your life balance make sure to step outside the bubble and find personal time away. Engage in a personal hobby that can take you physically and mentally away from caregiving. Personal hobbies lower stress levels and raise life satisfaction. Also, focus on retaining and cultivating healthy relationships outside your bubble. Make an effort to spend time with friends or make new friends who are outside your work, family, and caregiving bubble. Connecting with outside friends can provide much needed emotional relief.
Seek Personal Therapy
If you find yourself overwhelmed with stress or emotions it may be time to seek the aid of a trained professional. A personal therapist can help you process what you’re feeling and implement tactics to maintain a healthy life balance and prevent compassion fatigue escalation.
Remember, you are providing crucial and loving care for your loved one. Compassion fatigue affects many caregivers, there is no shame for feeling its symptoms in your position. Often you can care best for your loved one and spend more quality time with them by reducing your personal burden of caregiving.
In-Home Hospice Care and Compassion Fatigue
An in-home hospice care provider like Provista Hospice can help you find more balance in your life. Our professional caregivers can give you the time and space you need to maintain a healthy life balance. In addition to home care aides and nurses, Provista Hospice offers medical social workers and spiritual advisors to help patients and their families find comfort and consolation in this trying time. Learn more about Provista Hospice.
Compassion Fatigue is a well-known issue. So much that Medicare provides for occasional, short-term inpatient respite care. If you as a caregiver needs a personal break from caretaker duties your hospice provider will help arrange for your loved one a short-term (five day) stay at a Medicare-approved facility.
Potential Changes to In-Home Hospice Respite Care
There are proposed changes to Medicare on Capitol Hill that include extending hospice respite care to in-home hospice providers. We believe this would be a better quality of care as it reduces the transportation of hospice respite care that is currently required by Medicare. At the moment, the only way to receive home caregiver support is with in-home hospice care.