Compassion Fatigue in Caregivers

BrainLine talks with Dr. Maria Mouratidis about why burn-out can be a very real problem for caregivers.

Compassion fatigue is a hazard of caring. It occurs when you feel like you have given everything you have. It's that feeling of feeling drained or empty and that it feels hard to care. It's common in healthcare providers and in caregivers of all kinds, including family caregivers. It's often very difficult for family members and healthcare providers to deal with it because they often feel guilty that they have that tiredness It's not that they don't care any more. It's hard to keep caring that much and to sustain that, and especially if someone is recovering from an injury over a long period of time. That is very emotionally draining and exhausting. Oftentimes, the caregiver is so focused on the needs of the person that's injured, they're not taking care of their own physical or emotional needs. The understandable sort of neglect of that builds up over time, and we work with both staff and family caregivers about how to maintain your stamina and keep your endurance up, to find ways that nurture and take care of yourself, so that you can be there for the long haul and that it is okay to take a break,-- it doesn't mean that you don't care-- and how to use the support that you have available to you. Compassion fatigue is a real element. It's different than burnout. It's not like being overworked or not liking your job or not caring. It is a natural part of care giving. We don't tend to talk about it as much. It is important that if anyone is feeling that way that they understand first that it's normal, and secondly, that it doesn't mean that they don't care or they're doing anything wrong, and three, that's it's okay to talk about.
Posted on BrainLine March 4, 2009.