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How to Reduce Compassion Fatigue and Caregiver Burnout

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Physical, emotional and mental exhaustion can signal dangerous levels of stress for caregivers

Compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout share many of the same symptoms and causes. Both can be caused by sustained exposure to suffering, the stress of caregiving and watching a loved one decline steadily. Those who care for loved ones with dementia can’t slow the progression of the disease and that causes extreme levels of stress. The inability to detach oneself from the situation can lead to levels of stress that result in both compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. To lessen levels of stress here is more information about what steps you should be taking to improve your overall mental and physical health. Beneath the last step, there is also information on how to differentiate compassion fatigue from caregiver burnout and how they relate with one another.

The difference between compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout.

Compassion fatigue occurs when the caregiver cannot remove themselves from the condition of their loved one long enough to recover from the stress they develop attending to their needs. The caregiver becomes overwhelmed and begins to feel guilt, trauma, and depression. This, in turn, leads to caregiver burnout which includes physical symptoms like weight loss and sleep disturbances.

Five Ways You Can Reduce Compassion Fatigue and Caregiver Burnout:

All of these symptoms can adversely impact the caregiver’s ability to provide care and as a result, place the person in their care at risk. Reducing the causes of compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout is the only way to remain healthy while caring for a loved one. Being mindful of the need to care for oneself is an important first step. Here are some ways in which you can maintain good health while serving as a caregiver.

Eat good food.

  • Whole grains are high in fiber.
    • Brown rice is high in manganese which helps your body to produce energy.
    • Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A and vitamin C.
  • Fresh fruit will give you energy and help you feel full.
  • Bananas, apples, and oranges are packed with important vitamins and minerals.
  • Eat fresh vegetables, like spinach which is a superfood.
  • Beans are a protein and a complex carb, both of which provide energy to your body.
  • Enjoy nuts like almonds which are one of the best nuts you can eat.
  • Yogurt is full of calcium and magnesium which supports energy production.

Get a full night’s sleep. Don’t subtract from sleep time to get things done; being sleep deprived will lead to much lower productivity overall. Nap when your loved one naps – the housework and laundry will wait. Your sleep time is precious and should be protected. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Our bodies respond best to routines and a predictable sleep schedule is one of the most beneficial habits that you can adopt. For a good sleep, don’t drink caffeine in the evening hours and turn off all electronic devices an hour before going to bed. That will give your brain a chance to rest before you ask it to fall asleep.

Don’t go at it alone. As a caregiver, you cannot provide care and juggle all of life’s responsibilities without support. Make sure that you maintain friendships and talk to them regularly. If you can’t get out for coffee, have regular phone calls. Talk to other caregivers about the weight of your responsibilities. Caregiving commonly results in loneliness and isolation. Talking to people and maintaining a network of support can protect you against these negative results.

Take a break. Whether it is an hour, a day or a week, take time off from caregiving. It isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity if you are to protect against compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. Ask friends and family members to step in and care for your loved one so you can have some time off. Check local assisted living facilities, long-term care
facilities, adult day care or home care programs for respite. It can be easy to ignore your need to take time off, but it is essential as recharging can help you become the best caregiver you can be.

Be realistic. The demands of family, work and caregiving may not leave you a lot of time to go shopping or engage in other activities you enjoy. However, you can squeeze in time for yourself. Leave a bit early and stop at your favorite coffee shop. Stop at your favorite bookstore on the way home. Treat yourself to your favorite take-out instead of making dinner. If your loved one is mobile, both of you can enjoy the treat of a manicure or pedicure.

Being a caregiver is difficult and finding time for yourself will not be easy. But it is essential to preventing effects of compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout.

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