The term compassion fatigue was coined to describe burnout by health care workers and others who deal with emergency care. It also extends to family members who care for others. According to Wikipedia,
“Compassion fatigue is a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others, often described as the negative cost of caring.”
Compassion fatigue has also been called by professionals empathy fatigue or secondary traumatic stress disorder. The person affected is sometimes called a secondary survivor. Thus, the medical community has recognized that the work of a caregiver, without outside help, can cause long-lasting and life-affecting difficulties. The family caregiver helps out of the goodness of their hearts and certainly deserves to be relieved.
“Don’t wait for someone to rescue you. Learn to rescue yourself!”
– Simerjeet Singh
A Mother’s Resentment
One family’s difficult was posted by BuggLife16 on Reddit, that describes a typical situation of compassion fatigue,
“My father has end-stage COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes it difficult to breathe]. Currently, my mother is his primary caregiver. She has some help from my sisters, who live nearby. I live in a different state, however, several hours away, so visiting my hometown isn’t always easy. Throw in COVID-19 and it’s been practically impossible.”
“I’m worried that my mom is beginning to resent my dad because he’s so reliant on her. He can’t walk without help, he’s fatigued all the time, and he’s pretty much incontinent. He’s also very slow to speak and comprehend things….”
“I’ve pointed out that she’s been impatient when he doesn’t talk fast enough. She scolds him when she thinks he’s not listening, even though it’s obvious he’s trying to focus and stay awake. She’s made remarks to me about how ‘difficult he is to deal with,’ then tried to play it off as a joke.”
One person on the forum provides helpful advice for this person:
“Your Mom has gone from caring for kids to caring for parents to caring for her partner. That’s been her life. Caregiving is exhausting, not just physically but emotionally and it sounds like mom has reached her limit. She needs help, and a few hours here and there, by a sister is just a drop in the bucket….”
“Your mom needs to take care of herself and can only do it if she gets substantial help with your dad. Can you or your sisters arrange to care for your dad and give your mom a weekend/week off? …. As for help, pool your cash and hire someone …. A worn-out caretaker, one who doesn’t take the time to care for themselves, is no good for anyone involved. If you want to help your father, then help your mother first.”
Thus, respite care is a perfect solution for a family member caring for others. If a professional caretaker is hired, a refreshing break is given to the beleaguered son, daughter or spouse before they reach the burnout point.
“Being first to ask for help in a friendship takes courage and humility.”
– Afton Rorvik, author
Professional respite care is an excellent answer to the problem of caretaker burnout, empathy fatigue or secondary traumatic stress disorder. It can help those who are secondary survivors.
If nothing is done, the family caregiver can begin to feel resentful that the task of providing all or nearly all the required help that has fallen to them. There is a feeling of being treated unfairly by their siblings. These feelings can show themselves in resentfulness, or even hostility toward their loved one, or siblings. These disturbing feelings can cause depression and even a loss of good health.
“A worn-out caretaker, one who doesn’t take the time to care for themselves, is no good for anyone involved.”
– Reddit member
Family Plans for Respite Care
Winston Churchill said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” What would it take to hire a professional caretaker to provide respite care now and then? One must step back from the situation, get together with family members, and ask these questions:
- Is our family caretaker becoming stressed out in caring for mom/dad?
- Are there some ways that we can all pitch in and help, even those who live far away?
- Can we find a dependable professional caretaker who can relieve the family caretaker now and then?
- Where will we get the funds for this? Ask mom/dad for it, or if necessary, pool our resources?
- What will our expected monthly budget be for this? Can we plan for six months of respite care and see how it goes?
Find a Good Caregiver
Why not set aside a week where your loved one can be taken care of by a well-trained and compassionate caregiver of Destiny Senior Care? There need not be any long-term arrangements. Situations like these need to be treated with flexibility. You will likely be surprised by the feelings of relief and satisfaction at having your loved one taken care of while at the same time giving yourself a much-needed rest. Check out our Custom Care Plan.