Every day, you're going to your mom and dad's house, helping them with their daily routines, and watching them struggle in new and concerning ways.
You're watching your dad's health deteriorate, and you start to see that he won't be around forever. Your mom has Alzheimer's and is slowly losing memories from the past few years. It's heartbreaking, and, understandably, that would sadden you.
If family caregivers are not careful about taking breaks and balancing their time, caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue are risks they face. They become serious issues that can impact mental and physical health. Worse, you may not realize they're affecting your ability to provide the best possible care. How do you avoid them?
The Signs of Compassion Fatigue and Caregiver Burnout
Compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout are similar. Both occur from the empathy and stress of caring for someone you love. Caregiver burnout happens gradually over time. Compassion fatigue tends to hit quickly after weeks or months of caring for someone and experiencing emotional and physical stress related to the care.
Compassion fatigue also differs in that you're so tired of caring that you find yourself losing the ability to be compassionate. You start to feel resentful or indifferent. At this point, you have to step away. You don't want the care you provide to be impacted by indifference.
How do you know if you're dealing with them? You may find yourself dealing with anxiety, struggling to make decisions, and feeling hopeless. You're angry and lash out at others. You may isolate yourself from others. Insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and feeling tired all the time are common.
Talk to Your Doctor
You should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Caring for an aging parent also increases the risk of depression. You schedule respite care services and have taken a break from being an unpaid family caregiver, but you're not feeling better. It can be a sign that you're also depressed.
Therapy is vital for both compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants if depression is diagnosed. You have to focus on your own mental health. One way to do this is by making sure you're not the only person caring for your mom and dad.
Avoid becoming tired or burned out by ensuring you take breaks. Caregivers come to your parents' home and help them with their daily activities. That frees up your day to do things on your own. Go out with friends, sleep late, or have a lazy day at home. Call a home care agency and ask about respite care services from caregivers.