Caring for an aging senior can be mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging, and
family caregivers often find themselves sacrificing their own wellbeing for that of the
beloved parent or relative they care for. While a great deal of support is available for aging
seniors themselves from clinicians, home health services or assisted living communities in
TX, the impact that caregiving can have on family caregivers is often overlooked.
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion fatigue refers to the emotional and psychological impact of caring for someone
else who is experiencing trauma or distress. Caring for an aging senior can take its toll on
professional and family caregivers alike, and it’s important to be able to properly recognize
and know how to address the symptoms of compassion fatigue.
While compassion fatigue is often confused with burnout, it is actually a slightly more
specific phenomenon. Unlike burnout, which typically develops due to the physical demands
of caregiving or competing responsibilities, compassion fatigue is the result of secondary
stress experienced by caregivers. This usually occurs when the person being cared for is
dealing with acute or long-term distress, shock or trauma.
What can Trigger Compassion Fatigue in Family Caregivers?
When providing care for a senior loved one, there are a range of situations that may lead to
compassion fatigue. For example:
- If the person you care for has dementia and often becomes very distressed,
confused, aggressive or agitated.
- If the aging senior you care for is dealing with depression or mental health issues.
- If the person you care for has recently suffered a bereavement, like losing their
spouse, a sibling or another close friend or family member.
Recognizing Compassion Fatigue
While this is far from a comprehensive list of the effects compassion fatigue can have,
symptoms range from the physical to the emotional and mental, and may include:
- Moderate to severe mood swings
- Difficulties with productivity
- Withdrawal or detachment from friends or relationships
- Feeling drained or exhausted
- Appetite changes or digestive issues
How to Cope with Compassion Fatigue as a Family Caregiver
While compassion fatigue can be difficult to deal with, it is possible to improve your
wellbeing with self-care techniques. Here are four tips you can try to keep yourself happy
and healthy as a family caregiver.
1. Eat Well and Get Some Physical Exercise.
It sounds simple, but making sure you have a healthy, varied diet and take some
form of physical exercise if you’re able are both great ways to improve physical and
mental health. When faced with the demands of caring for an aging senior, many
family caregivers find themselves neglecting their own health, opting for quick
convenience foods and reducing physical exercise or hobbies. It’s understandable –
caregiving can be time consuming and draining, but there are small things you can
do to improve your diet and physical fitness sustainably. Something as simple as
incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet, prepping simple yet
nutritious meals for the week, or taking a 15-minute walk around the block each day
can truly make the world of difference.
2. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene.
Sleep is absolutely vital for good overall health; getting enough sleep can help you
get sick less often, maintain a healthy weight, improve mood and reduce your risk of
serious health issues like heart disease or diabetes. “Sleep hygiene” simply refers to
creating positive habits around sleep that will help you get the best quality shut-eye
possible. Getting enough quality sleep can be challenging as a family caregiver,
particularly if your loved one requires around-the-clock care. Things like sticking to a
set sleep and wake-up time (if possible), creating a pleasant bedroom environment
and avoiding screens and dimming lights 30-60 minutes before bedtime can all be
3. Spend Time with People You Love.
When caring for an aging senior becomes time consuming or difficult, it’s easy to
neglect relationships and friendships. It’s understandable – the prospect of conjuring
up the energy to socialize after a long day of caregiving might feel impossible, but
social support is absolutely vital for our mental health. Where possible, try to keep
those precious social connections and spend time with friends and loved ones.
Something as simple as a quick coffee and a chat or having dinner together can be an
excellent way to boost your mood.
4. Seek Practical or Emotional Support.
Family caregivers are compassionate individuals, and an attitude of ‘not wanting to
bother’ others is common. Rest assured that caregiving is not something you have to
navigate alone. Think about the sort of support that would benefit you most. Do you
need practical help if your loved one’s mobility is declining and their home is difficult
to move around? Or would it be more useful to have someone to talk to who
understands the struggles caregivers can face? Many areas have local caregiver
support groups where you can meet others in a similar situation, and if practical help
would be beneficial, it may be useful to investigate options like home health or
Time to Consider Assisted Living?
While many aging seniors are initially reluctant to explore the possibility of moving to
assisted living in Texas, it is often an excellent solution for seniors and family caregivers
alike. Caregiver self-care can go a long way, but there may come a time when professional
care is a better fit for your loved one’s needs. This is not a failure on your part, but rather a
natural progression that often occurs at some point during an aging senior’s retirement.
If you feel Argent Court’s assisted living communities in Bastrop, Seguin, Brenham or
Jourdanton can help you or your loved one, get in touch to arrange a tour or call us directly,
our professional caregivers are available to answer any questions you may have.