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Thriving through Caregiver Compassion Fatigue: Who Is at Risk?

Are you at risk? In this episode, you will learn who is at risk for compassion, fatigue, and how to treat it. So in the past episodes, we have learned about what compassion fatigue is and what the symptoms are, but not everyone gets compassion fatigue. So who is at the most risk? So as we initially talked about, health care professionals or trauma or crisis professionals are at very high risk.

These folks tend to experience emotional and physical distress caused by helping and treating patients who are really in need. Some are very ill, some may pass away and over time it can desensitize the healthcare professionals because they see this all the time. So it might end up leading to lack of empathy for future patients, or even just feeling really down and burnt out. Mental health professionals similarly are in that group that may experience it as well, especially when those that they treat have suffered extensive trauma. Lastly, caregivers of children or adults with special needs are at risk for compassion fatigue. So in this talk, we're going to focus on caregivers. There are different factors to people that can make them more or less likely to experience compassion fatigue.

So we're going to talk about current life circumstances, history, your coping style and your personality. So life circumstances are obviously something we can only minimally change. Sometimes if we're caregivers for children or young adults with special needs. Caregivers often do work or things that other people, unfortunately, don't want to hear about.

They don't really want to hear about diaper changes or the ins and outs of special needs and appointments and feeding and shots and things like that. But they're things that are really stressful to caregivers or parents who have to do that day in and day out. Sometimes there could be workplace negativity and that can be in an outside of the home job.

Or that could even be at home with a spouse or a partner who is negative or who doesn't participate or doesn't recognize the needs of the person who is beginning to experience compassion fatigue. It could even be the child or siblings of the child with special needs. Who is causing some of the negativity?

Sometimes a person might have multiple children with special needs, whether they're twins or triplets, or even just children of different ages with special needs. And that tends to lead to faster compassion fatigue, also sleep deprivation. And anyone who's been a parent knows that sleep deprivation is huge and the less sleep we get, the worse we feel and the worse the outcome.

And when we have children with special needs, a lot of times they're very poor sleepers or they need care during the night, or we're worried that they might become ill. And I know for myself, my oldest, who has autism runs into our room at least once or twice every single night. So we don't get very good sleep.

And those are the good nights. As far as history, the biggest part, there is any unresolved trauma or pain from the past, and this can be physical, emotional, sexual, any type of abuse or trauma that happened in the past can lead to a greater likelihood of compassion fatigue. Your coping style. So some coping styles are really healthy, like using self-care strategies, looking for support, but others aren't quite as healthy, such as using drugs, food, alcohol, cigarettes, and that could also contribute to lack of social support.

So these could be actual friends. This could be people online. It could be family. It could be other types of caregivers like babysitters or ABA professionals, or para-professionals who can actually physically help. And when a person or a family does not have that support, whether it's the actual physical support or emotional support that can lead to compassion fatigue.

Lastly, there's personality. So a lot of us who are caregivers, myself included, tend to be that type A personality of we're going to put her all into everything. Everything has to be as good as possible, placing the needs of others, mostly our children before our own needs. And I know I do that all the time.

We tend to feel an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and perfectionism. And I know for me, I always have that perfectionism of what will happen to my child if I don't get it right. Or if I don't do it perfectly, am I doing him a disservice? Sometimes there's not a sense of personal boundaries or difficulty communicating your needs, a big one for the difficulty communicating your needs is difficulty asking for help.

We all need help when we have special kids with special needs, but it's not always easy to ask about other things, our lack of time management or financial management, and again, lack of social support or lack of ability, willingness to seek social support. So, how is compassion fatigue treated well, seeing a mental health professional, whether it be a therapist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, social worker can be very, very, very helpful, can be helpful to do what you're doing now of learning more about compassion fatigue, and how it affects people, making a commitment to exercise regularly and eat healthfully, you know, for not doing that.

Basic self-care of eating right, exercising, socializing. We're not going to be at our best. And when we're not at our best, we're at a higher risk for compassion fatigue, getting restful sleep. And again, I understand that we don't always have that ability, but if you can put rest ahead of everything else. Laundry hopefully we'll get done another day, but you really need to get your sleep. It's helpful to develop hobbies that are different from that of your child, or that are from work to develop and learn positive coping strategies and to reach out to support groups and networks. This can be Facebook. This can be family, friends, other parents who are going through the same thing, anything like that.

In future episodes, we're going to talk about other skills such as mindfulness, self-care strategies, coping strategies that will help you on a day-to-day basis to cope with, and hopefully reverse compassion, fatigue. Thank you for listening to this course on Listenable hope you've enjoyed it.

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Written by

Jessica Temple