Caring for the Caregiver: Strategies to Combat Compassion Fatigue

caregiver experiencing compassion fatigue
Learn the red flags of compassion fatigue and what to do if you suspect you’re struggling with it.

Family caregivers dedicate so much of themselves to the ones they care for – both physically and emotionally. It’s easy to become exhausted and to start to experience feelings of indifference or detachment from the person in your care. Known as compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress, it may impact your ability to be as nurturing, warm, and caring as you should be for the person you love. Additionally, it may also be hazardous to your own health and wellbeing.

What Is Compassion Fatigue?

In contrast to caregiver burnout, which occurs progressively over time, compassion fatigue can occur out of the blue and unexpectedly. You might genuinely want to continue providing care and support, but you simply feel too overwhelmed.

If you encounter any of the symptoms below, compassion fatigue might be the culprit:

  • Fatigue (physically, mentally, or both)
  • Anger, anxiety, and/or irritability
  • Dreading your care obligations, together with feelings of guilt
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Decreased feelings of empathy or sympathy for the person in your care
  • Isolation and separation from friends, family, and activities that you would normally enjoy
  • Difficulties with other relationships
  • Problems with decision-making
  • Questioning whether you’re achieving anything with your caregiving work


I Think I May Have Compassion Fatigue. Now What?

If the description above feels like what you’re experiencing, there are actions you can take to help.

  • Place a numeric value on your feelings. Take a simple self-assessment by rating how you’re feeling each day on a scale of 1 – 10. If you find your answers are in the 9 – 10 scope of compassion fatigue signs, schedule an appointment with a professional counselor.
  • Get support. Become a member of a caregiver support group, either in person or virtually, to allow you to discuss your feelings with other people who are walking a mile in your shoes and can share management techniques that are working well for them.
  • Prioritize time for self-care. Taking proper care of yourself is not selfish; it’s necessary for your own wellness as well as the wellbeing of the person in your care. Make it a top priority each day (even if you don’t feel like it!) to take part in pleasant activities, exercise, healthy eating, and conversations with friends and relatives.
  • Practice journaling. Journaling is a great way to release stress and sort through difficult emotions and decisions. Looking back through your writings will allow you to pick up on any patterns in your thoughts. Perhaps you feel most worn down late in the afternoon, and can set aside a few minutes each day at that time to pray, meditate, listen to calming music, take a walk – whatever helps you best de-stress.

At Abrio Home Care, the top provider of home care in Kingman, Yuma, Flagstaff, Mesa, Phoenix, and the surrounding areas, we’re always here to help you overcome compassion fatigue by serving as a trusted partner in care. Our full range of personalized in-home care services provide older adults with a friendly companion, while offering you much-needed time to yourself. Contact us at 877-71-ABRIO to learn more.