Caregivers experience so many emotions, may feel overwhelmed, and therefore need support in their role. Those working in respite care or home care especially find themselves on the verge of these conditions. If not careful, those in a caregiver role can experience caregiving burnout and compassion fatigue. Caregiving burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, which often includes prolonged negative attitude over long periods of time.
Whether you are a family member in a caregiver role (often known as family caregivers), or a hired caregiver, it’s vital to understand the symptoms of caregiver burnout and warning signs of compassion fatigue. Many well-meaning family members and friends may think it’s just a matter of physical exhaustion, and may not realize how important it is to get help with things like a support group, or the help of a mental health professional. Another great place to start is to simply understand the warning signs and symptoms to help you be aware of what you may be experiencing.
Caregiver burnout is often known as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It often is paired with a shift toward a negative state of mind and attitude. Caregiving burnout occurs when you take on more than you can truly handle financially and physically without sufficient support. It also occurs when people have unrealistic expectations surrounding a declining health condition of a family member or loved one. Caregiving burnout often sneaks up on most people and they don’t even realize there’s an issue before they have multiple symptoms of caregiving burnout.
Caregiver compassion fatigue is often not talked about as much, but it can be a very serious state of being. Compassion fatigue is a step beyond caregiving burnout, which includes a state of extreme tension and stress. Compassion fatigue is a secondary stress disorder, caused by exposure to traumatic experiences with a caregiving recipient over long periods of time. Over time, a caregiver may experience waning levels of empathy and difficulty being compassionate. It can happen with employed caregivers as well as family caregivers.
Compassion fatigue has very similar symptoms to caregiver burnout, but with a few elevated warning signs to be aware of:
The work of being a caregiver is such an important role, but it obviously comes with some risks. It’s so much more than just dealing with physical exhaustion, as so many jobs may experience, but also includes a very real emotional toll and mental health factor. The caregiver role changes from respite care to home care to hospice care and more. However, all caregiver roles carry a similar thread of this exhaustion component that requires some proactive self-care.
Burnout and compassion fatigue are very real conditions that caregivers experience from time to time. Both of these conditions have a very real physical, emotional, and mental cost. However, many people feel they have to put up a strong facade, but over time that can actually do more harm than good. That’s why it’s important to be aware to recognize the warning signs and understand your options for self-care. Both you, and your care recipient, will benefit in the long run.
If you are looking for a great place to work in respite care, home care, and other forms of elder care, All American care is waiting for you. We care about the whole person, both for the caregiver and the care recipient. Learn how you can care for others alongside a team that cares for you.