Caring for our senior loved ones can be an incredibly rewarding endeavor. Whether caregiving for a parent or a spouse, there are also times, though, that it can begin to feel overwhelming, as it is a demanding job.
Recently, there have been many stay-at-home orders and general regulations put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After sheltering in place for weeks or months with a loved one you’re caring for, it’s natural to feel frustrated or exhausted. Let us be the first to tell you that you are not a bad caregiver for feeling this way. Chances are high that you’re experiencing some compassion fatigue.
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion fatigue isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s been a well-known condition in the medical field for years. What you may not know is that it can affect senior caregivers too.
Compassion fatigue often feels like simply going through the motions to take care of the senior in your life. One of the first indications is typically a decrease in empathy toward your parent or spouse. In some cases, you may even begin to feel resentful towards them.
If you’ve begun to feel this way and think you may be suffering from compassion fatigue, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- When was the last time I took time for myself?
- Have I been getting enough quality sleep?
- Am I exhausted?
- Are decisions difficult to make?
- Am I feeling angry, anxious or irritable?
- Is caregiving draining or life-giving?
Depending on your answers to these questions, you may be experiencing compassion fatigue. Again, this does not mean you’re a bad caregiver. In order to continue caring well, though, you should accept these feelings so you can learn how to combat them.
Coping with Compassion Fatigue
Acknowledging that you are feeling compassion fatigue and committing to working through it is the best place to start. Once you’ve done so, here are some additional steps you can take to cope with compassion fatigue.
1. Prioritize self-care.
Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean spa trips and manicures, although that can also be a great idea. Instead, self-care in this case means eating a well-balanced diet that will fuel you throughout your day. It means finding the time to exercise, preferably outside if possible. It means prioritizing a good night’s sleep.
By taking care of yourself first, you can then properly care for others. This also includes finding time for things you enjoy, whether that’s gardening, painting, or having a good time with your friends. Self-care is the first step in providing great care to others.
2. Express yourself.
Caregiving can be a difficult job, and it can be easy to keep all of our thoughts and feelings inside. However, taking the time to work through those emotions can help us show up better each and every day. For some people, finding a group of other caregivers to meet and discuss their stories as a caregiver. For others, finding a counselor or therapist might be the best route to take.
Another option is to spend some time journaling through your daily experiences. Reflecting on the day can give you the space to think about what went right and what went wrong. Were there moments you and your loved one truly enjoyed together? Write down those good memories. Were there moments you’d have liked to change? Think critically about those moments so you know how to change your reactions in the future.
3. Ask for help.
Sometimes this can be difficult, and sometimes you might not know where to go. But there are times when we all need a little help. Reaching out to a friend or family member can be a great place to start. If you need some advice, consider asking other caregivers or even medical professionals in your life for their input or assistance.
Compassion fatigue is a common part of caregiving, and it is especially prevalent after weeks and months of social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and COVID-19 quarantine requirements. By prioritizing your own self care and well-being, you can better care for and serve those you love.
If you’re looking for additional caregiving tips or want to learn more about assisted living or senior care in Louisville, KY, the Episcopal Church Home is here for you. Fill out our information request form, and we’ll contact you shortly.