Caregiver Stress and Compassion Fatigue
“Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions, and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labeled: Compassion Fatigue.”
The importance of self-care is well established. The question is, how do you practice self-care?
For many caregivers, stress relief is the number one goal, with rest coming in at a close second. Some of the more common methods of stress relief include exercise, journaling, meditation, yoga, music, and art. It will take you time to discover the right activities that relax you, bring you peace and take you out of your caregiver role; don’t give up. It will take practice for a new activity like meditation or yoga to become part of your routine. Just be sure to not add stress to your life by trying to make something work that is not your cup of tea. What works for your best friend may not work for you.
Setting boundaries, reassessing your “to do” lists and leaning on your support network are also important to self-care. Out of this list, the most difficult one to accomplish for many caregivers is setting boundaries. It is, however, by far the most important.
Start by setting a boundary that gives you time to do one or more of the stress relief techniques previously discussed. When you reassess your to-do list, look to see if there is another boundary that needs to be set with family members. Not doing it all and having other family members share the caregiving load may mean giving up some control, but it is well worth it.
When you are making time for yourself, be sure it includes time outside of the caregiving space with friends and family, your support network. Taking the time to be with friends, people who know and love you is taking the time to remember who you are as a whole person and not as just a caregiver.
If you have to, take it one day at a time, one minute at a time. It’s OK if you want to scream. Just walk outside take a breath and look for something like a flower or sunset and appreciate its beauty in that moment.
And please keep in mind the need for self-care isn’t limited to family caregivers. Professionals run the risk of compassion fatigue as well. It is one of the reasons that Certified Home Health Aids (CHHA) from accredited agencies like Springpoint at Home are protective about their employees’ rights for breaks during the day, a complete night’s rest and vacations.
It takes a team to ensure that both family and professional caregivers get the support they need. When you work with Springpoint at Home, their on-staff RN’s and care management team are an excellent resource for caregiver support, help in finding resources and balancing your needs with your Certified Home Health Aid’s.