Caring for the elderly is a fulfilling yet challenging responsibility. The constant demands of this role can lead to compassion fatigue, a condition characterized by emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion.
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Caring for the elderly is a fulfilling yet challenging responsibility. The constant demands of this role can lead to compassion fatigue, a condition characterized by emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion.

In this article, we explore ways to recognize, prevent, and manage compassion fatigue so that you may continue providing compassionate care without compromising your well-being.

Understanding Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is often described as "running on empty." It occurs when caregivers focus excessively on meeting the needs of their clients, neglecting their own well-being. In essence, it is the emotional toll exacted by caregiving.

While compassion fatigue is treatable, burnout, a related condition, may require more drastic measures, such as a change in profession or work environment.

Recognizing the Signs

Compassion fatigue affects individuals in the caregiving profession, including activity staff, nurses, home caregivers, therapists, paramedics, doctors, and wardens. Recognizing the symptoms is crucial to addressing this issue effectively. The signs of compassion fatigue mirror those of burnout and may include:

  1. Exhaustion, both mental and physical.
  2. Irritability, anger, or guilt.
  3. Dissociation from your work.
  4. Dread of working with certain clients.
  5. Feeling gloomy and withdrawn.
  6. Increased absenteeism.
  7. Disillusionment with your career and a loss of purpose.
  8. Insensitivity and a lack of concern for the feelings of others.

Contributing Factors

Several factors contribute to the development of compassion fatigue:

  1. Dwindling resources within the caregiving environment.
  2. Criticism from co-workers or supervisors.
  3. Long shifts and heavy workloads.
  4. Clients experiencing challenging emotional phases.
  5. Lack of support from management.
  6. Personal life circumstances.

7 Ways to Manage Compassion Fatigue

Preventing and managing compassion fatigue is essential for maintaining your own well-being and ensuring you can provide the best care possible. Here are some strategies to help:

Be self-aware: Understand that compassion fatigue can impact anyone in caregiving.

Address personal issues: Find solutions to reduce workplace stress.

Manage your workload: Talk to supervisors about handling your responsibilities better.

Take breaks during long shifts: Rest to maintain your energy and resilience.

Seek support from peers and management: Ask for guidance from colleagues & superiors.

Prioritize self-care: Focus on nutrition, sleep, mindfulness, and nurturing activities.

Consider professional help: If overwhelmed, consult a mental health professional.

Looking After Yourself

Caring for the elderly is a noble profession, but it comes with unique challenges that can lead to compassion fatigue. By recognizing the signs, addressing contributing factors, and prioritizing self-care, you can protect your well-being and continue providing compassionate and empathetic care to those in need.

Remember that looking after yourself is not selfish; it's essential for your own resilience and the quality of care you can offer.

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Comments   Post a Comment

Darlene 28th Apr 2020 Recreation Aide
thank-you everyone who shared. I am not the only one who feels this way. I do love my job it is the other things that seem to get in the way.
Pat 22nd Jan 2019 Volunteer
YES !!! We all put our heart and soul to make a difference in these beautiful folks.
I believe working back to back --- from one activity to another without a break is not good. You should have a little breather refresh yourself before you get set for the next activity. I totally agree how exhausted it is.... However, at the end of the day you are so happy for having done a great job...
I strongly suggest that you have a break --- with a vacation at the end of one year or even a little less than one year... You can begin with a refreshed feeling.
I experienced a burn out... and if I go back think what I would have done differently, it would have been a total break for a nice calm vacation... which I did not do...
We are emotionally and even physically involved with these beautiful people also with the rest of the workers and want to keep our positive smiling energies pouring out to them.
My advice to you is taking a little break in between activities (may be a few minutes) and when you reach one year definitely a break a vacation.
Love you all keep up your beautiful work......

Solange 27th Jan 2019 Diversional Therapist
That's right Pat if you don't take control, and actively and conscientiously manage your time, you'll pay the price. It is very important to learn to delegate tasks and ask for help when the going gets tough.
Anne Gaynor 12th Feb 2018
Hi, compassion fatigue is an issue we could talk about for days. Unpaid family carers; individual workers supporting carers and families, as well as volunteers who have stepped up into a volunteering role would all benefit.

Establishing strategies outlining resilience techniques and creating strategies which emulate healthy boundaries when delivering support to people who are vulnerable; requires commitment and ongoing personal reflection about how well am I travelling to support someone adequately. Moreso, how well am I developing personally and professionally.

Thank you for this information and sharing

Anne Gaynor
Solange 14th Feb 2018 Diversional Therapist
Hi Anne, you are quite right. Thank you for the feedback; it is very much appreciated.
AnniLivewire 14th Nov 2017
An idea for Susan...just wondering whether the paperwork can be largely changed to being more 'tick and flick' to save writing out the same kind of notes many times over?
Some computer databases allow you to set up and choose from a range of standard notes, then you can just select what is appropriate and copy it in. It takes a little while to set up but can save much time in the long run. In Australia, some of our TAFE colleges teach about this in their courses for Activities Co-ordinators. Also, perhaps if you are running a volunteer program you can train one of your volunteers to assist you in administration - there are often people who would prefer to volunteer in an office rather than work with people.
Jodi 29th Oct 2017 Activity Offocer
hi, I've just taken on the roll as activity coordinator, I think I might be trying to hard to keep the residents entertained per say, I'm trying to keep them busy for the whole 5 hours either one on one or group activities, discussions etc, but when I get home I'm worn out, then at night my mind goes a hundred miles an hour thinking of things to do.(thanks to your site I'm finding new things much easier), Is this normal?. Hopefully I can find a happy medium soon. I would love to hear from anyone that has any tips to help ,Thanks
Solange 30th Oct 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi, Jodi, you will find a happy medium, sure. It happens to all of us at the start of our careers.
Soon you will know the popular activities and get to know the clients better and everything falls into place. Good luck and thanks.
Paul 4th Sep 2017 Caregiver For My Wife
Hi, I am new to this site and I signed up for membership just to read this article. I worked as a caregiver for just a few years and experienced burn out very early in my career. The nursing home I worked at was one of the better places to work at in my city, but that being said, we were grossly understaffed. I was new to the field, didn't have the experience, and was very slow. There were too many residents and there was not enough time to humanely give the residents I worked with the support they needed. Eight residents up and washed in an hour and a half before breakfast. It was too much for me and I moved to another floor to work the evening shift. I had eight hours to assist residents with getting ready for bed. This made a lot more sense and I began to love and care for my residents and felt more at peace performing my duties. No, I wasn't home in the evenings with my family, but I had much more peace of mind, contentment and a lot less stress. Thank you for sharing this article.
Solange 4th Sep 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi, Paul, I know what you mean. Sadly, many facilities have this problem; not enough staff to ensure quality care; task oriented instead of care oriented. Unlike childcare centers and hospitals there is no legislative requirement for staff-to-resident ratio and therefore it is up to management to provide it, and many don’t deem it necessary. Job satisfaction and peace of mind are crucial to well-being and I am glad you found a solution.
Marjorie 1st Sep 2017 Activities Assistant
Thanks for a meaningful article. After 3 years in the Activitiy Dept. I was feeling a little bit "out of gas" myself. I always appreciate your new ideas and suggestions. It certainly helps in the creativity and idea areas immensely. Keep up the great emotional support that you provide!
Solange 1st Sep 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi, Marjorie, thank you very much for your kind words. We appreciate it very much.
Marie 31st Aug 2017 Manager
Oh my, I can sooo identify with this article! Although not an Activities Coordinator I manage staff, volunteers as well as dwindling financial resources and clients come to me for assistance with various support needs. I have identified for over two years that I've been 'running on empty', but with not enough support to make things better. Just knowing others are going through the same thing is helpful. In the next couple of weeks, for the first time, our centre will close for two weeks and this will give me an opportunity to try to re-charge the very depleted battery and have some 'ME time'.
To my fellow caring individuals, hang in there, we do a wonderful job.
Solange 1st Sep 2017 Diversional Therapist
Thank you for your kind words, Marie. We appreciate very much your feedback.
Geeta 30th Aug 2017 Senior carer
Thank you so much for this article. Seeing this on site I felt like you read my mind ! I love my job, I find so rewarding but at this right moment I don't know why I am feeling low but reading this article gave me a boost !! Thank you again :)
Solange 1st Sep 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi, Geeta, it is so rewarding to think we could help you. Thank you for your kind words.
Valerie 29th Aug 2017 Activities Director
Thank you for this article! Thank you for providing a place to go for someone with no experience in this field. I naturally have a huge heart for the senior adult living in a retirement facility. I am learning as each day passes. I am so glad this website is her just for that reason alone! I recently retired from a 25 year service in government and stepped into this role of Activity Director and without people like you all I'd been completely lost! THANK YOU !!!
Solange 29th Aug 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi Valerie, welcome to the best profession in the world! Thak you very much for your kind words. We do appreciate your feedback.
Sue 29th Aug 2017 Lifestyle Lead
I really can relate to this article. I seem to have lost my mojo as I am exhausted. As. Lifestyle leader the role, responsibilities and paperwork have grown significantly so my love of spending quality time with our residents mostly rests with my team. I miss those moments. I have began to feel it is time to hand the job over to someone else as my confidence has really taken a downward spiral. I am always on catch up. I will make plans to firstly have an honest conversation with my manager and my team. I will take some time to consider the future and what I can do to improve my wellbeing. Thanks for helping know I am not alone in this.
Solange 29th Aug 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi, Sue, thank you for your kind words. I hope you sort your problems soon and can go back to do what you love. All the best.
Susan 29th Aug 2017 Activity Director
Very good article
What I found most exhausting is the amount of paperwork you are expected to do and the meetings you are required to attend.
I think activity professionals want to spend as much time with the residents as they can. They get personal satisfaction from seeing smiles on the residents' faces.
There are some residents you feel closer to than others. However do not get too close because you will be hurt eventually,

Another tip is to leave your problems at the door. Your facility is a happy place
Solange 1st Sep 2017 Diversional Therapist
Thank you for your feedback, Susan.
Lorraine 29th Aug 2017 Lifestyle Coordinator Riverside
This article is so true.
More than time a few of us took "own time" !
Perhaps those in charge should read and obsorb this article, then work on it, to help their staff.
Thank you for the article, it should surely help a lot of caring and Activity staff to understand what is happening. I have always said that carers and Activity staff should get a week off every three months, apart from their annual leave. It would help with this problem, and make the work place a happier place for all concerned.
Solange 1st Sep 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi Lorraine, how wonderful it would be: a week off every three months! It won't happen though but being aware of the pitfalls by taking time to learn the signs and symptoms can be a helpful means of prevention. Thank for your feedback.
Deb 29th Aug 2017 Lifestyle Coordinator
Hmnn....this article sure speaks to me......thanks. I thought I was losing the plot. Love my job, love my residents but just going home yesterday I felt exhausted, frustrated, worn out, like I never wanted to go back to the residents I adore. NIce to know its normal and there is something that can be done about it......Time for me without feeling guilty.
Solange 1st Sep 2017 Diversional Therapist
Yes, Deb, frustration, and exhaustion happen to all of us sooner or later. Be aware and be safe. Thank you for your feedback, it is much appreciated.
Solange 29th Aug 2017 Diversional Therapist
Thank you all for your kind comments I appreciate very much your feedback.
Jodi 24th Mar 2018 Activity Offocer
Solange thanks for your kind words, you were right it has gotten easier, I still finish the day tired but happy. I've learnt to slow down and that its about providing purposeful activities that matter, thanks for the support.
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