Compassion Fatigue: A Danger for Long-Term Caregivers

2018.05 Compassion Fatigue Risk for Longterm Caregivers

If you're a primary caregiver for an ill, disabled or elderly family member, you are carrying out a tremendous work, one requiring dedication and compassion. Your loved one surely benefits, but if the care lasts for an extended or indefinite duration, you could be at risk of developing compassion fatigue. What is this condition, its signs, and possible coping strategies? 


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Long-Term Stress in Long-Term Caregivers 

Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout that's unique to those in caregiving roles. It came to light in the 1950s when the healthcare field began noticing how some long-term care nurses gradually became desensitized in their work. The condition may arise, in part, from the ongoing emotional stress of witnessing and interacting with suffering individuals. Perceiving society's general indifference to those in need may bring on frustration. Family caregivers shoulder the additional distress of watching loved ones struggle with chronic conditions or deterioration. Over time, the caregiver may begin to feel depressed, helpless, hopeless and eventually apathetic.

Heightened Risk for Modern Caregivers 

Today, those in caregiving roles may walk a finer line of risk than caregivers in past generations. Many such dedicated individuals simultaneously juggle the competing demands of holding down a job, raising children and caring for the individual in need. Family caregivers who work alone or who have siblings who can't or don't share the load may feel anger and resentment. The financial strain of providing care or an unexpected downturn of events could also tip a caregiver's delicate internal balance. Compassion fatigue can build over time and cause damage to health and immunity. A 2011 study by Harvard researchers found that over a four-year period, nurses who cared for chronically ill or disabled patients for nine or more hours per week had increased risk of heart attack or coronary heart disease. Compassion fatigue is a real condition and a serious concern. Happily, it can also be detected and managed.

Gluckstein Lawyers' Ongoing Commitment to Supporting Caregivers 

We work closely with incredible medical staff and individuals who selflessly dedicate their time to caring for others. Their self-sacrifice and commitment continues to change the lives of so many, and make a big impact within our communities. To these individuals, we extend our deepest gratitude and support. Last month, our annual Compassion Fatigue Conference took place and left a lasting impression on both our attendees and us. The day consisted of learning and connecting, while hearing from speakers who addressed topics such as self-care, acceptance and inclusion. Visit highlights from our 2018 Compassion Fatigue Conference by reading our recent blog post, 2018 Compassion Fatigue Conference Leaves Lasting Impression. You can also find further references created by Gluckstein to help families and professionals who may be at risk for compassion fatigue by visiting Gluckstein Resource Guides: Helping Families and Professionals Navigate the System.  
  Comments   We would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and experiences about compassion fatigue in "Leave a Comment" found below.
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