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Introduction Dictionary. com describes compassion as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering (2012). Bush describes compassion fatigue as a complex emotion that allows caregivers to hold and sustain themselves in emotional balance while holding patients’ despair in one hand and their hopefulness in the other (2009).
Being able to identify the warning signs, know the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of you as a caregiver, and knowing different coping skills and ways to deal with the stressors of juggling life’s activities can help us as caregivers to keep ourselves in balance. Warning Signs The symptoms of compassion fatigue are similar to those of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, only instead of the symptoms being based upon a trauma that you directly experienced, they are due to the trauma that your clients have experienced Five of the major concepts of Compassion Fatigue are as follows: 1.
Having a feeling of being weak, tired and/or rundown as a result of my work as a helper. Sometimes, with juggling so much in our lives, we can get carried away with our responsibilities to others and forget to take care of our own needs. I’ve seen people juggle multiple jobs, school, family, and religion, and in doing so, and they were so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that they never had time for their own needs or pleasure. They stopped reading for enjoyment, stopped spending time with friends, and didn’t sleep as well, which resulted in a constant feeling of being tired. 2.
Outbursts of anger or irritability with little provocation. Being grumpy, or snappy, can cause a hardship between a caregiver and their loved ones. When a caregiver starts getting irritable and angry, it is usually their closest friends and family who get the brunt end of it. They may or may not recognize that this is from too much stress being put on the caregiver, inside and outside the home. Sometimes a caregiver simply needs to be taken care of a little themselves. 3. Being preoccupied with a client or their family, or losing sleep over a client and their family’s traumatic experiences.
Not being able to leave work (mentally as well as physically) can be a sign that compassion fatigue may be starting to show up in your life. Sometimes we constantly want to keep trying to figure out a way to keep our patients happy and healthy in the best way possible, and that is okay. But when we decide to let our work follow us home, and take over our lives; when we even start to lose sleep, or our dreams become part of our work as well, then we may be showing signs of compassion fatigue. 4. Felt a sense of hopelessness associated with working with clients and their families.
When we start feeling as if there is nothing we can do, or that we aren’t doing enough for our clients and their families; when we feel like just giving up because our efforts are worthless or to no end, this may be signs that we are experiencing compassion fatigue. 5. An unsuccessful at separating work from personal life. It is important to be able to separate work from personal life. If we can’t stop working and end up bringing our work home, whether intentionally or subconsciously, then we may be starting to experience compassion fatigue (Panos, 2012). Nature of the Problems and their Causes
Today, caregivers see more patients, do more paperwork, negotiate more contracts and have less autonomy than ever before. Add to that self-imposed pressure to live up to their own high standards, and it’s no wonder many caregivers feel like they’re spiraling down a whirlpool of physical, emotional and spiritual burnout (AAFP). Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Needs of the Caregiver. Just like patients, all caregivers have physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Physically, caregivers need to eat healthy and drink enough water, fight fatigue and sleeping well, exercise, and find time to relax.
These few things can help us to keep our bodies healthy. A caregiver needs to be able to communicate effectively. Accept your differences, listen to each other’s opinions, and not close the door on painful subjects. Spirituality means different things to different people. It may include faith or what provides a sense of personal meaning in life. As caregivers, we need to be able to accept our patients and co-workers’ spiritual beliefs and needs as well as our own. We shouldn’t lose ourselves in allowing or helping our patients with their spiritual needs.
Some ways we can maintain our spiritual needs are to: * Take time out to pray, meditate or practice spiritual rituals to nurture yourself. * Speak to a chaplain or religious figure. * Attend services at your church, synagogue, mosque, etc. * Find faith in what you believe, even if you are not affiliated with a religion. * Try to find meaning in your role as a caregiver. (Stoppain. org) Coping Strategies and Resources Finding ways to cope with these stresses can be challenging. Spending plenty of quiet time may help.
Taking time to breathe, meditate, pray, read, and just relaxing in any way possible can help relieve stress and tension you may not even know you had. This can also help keep focused. Recharge your batteries daily. Doing something as simple as eating healthy can have an exponential benefit on both your psychological and your physical body. A regular exercise regimen can reduce stress, help you achieve outer balance and re-energize you for time with family and friends. Taking the time to care for ourselves can affect our own health as well as how we care for others.
Some resources that can be used for help recovering from compassion fatigue are * Center for Professional Well-Being, Durham, N. C. Web site: www. cpwb. org * Professional Renewal Center, Lawrence, Kan. Web site: www. prckansas. org Conclusion Caregivers not only have to care for their patients and clients, but also themselves. If they don’t, they may experience compassion fatigue, which could cause a lot of stress for themselves and their loved ones, and could also affect how they provide care for their patients.
By taking care of their own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, a caregiver can avoid compassion fatigue. However, if one experiences compassion fatigue, there are resources and ways to recover and get that want to provide adequate and effective healthcare to their clients. Resources American Academy of Family Physicians. (2000). Overcoming compassion fatigue: when practicing medicine feels more like labor than a labor of love, take steps to heal the healer. Retrieved February 19, 2012 from http://www. aafp. org/fpm/2000/0400/p39. html Bush, N. (2009).
Compassion fatigue: are you at risk?. Oncology Nursing Forum, 36(1), 24-28. doi:10. 1188/09. ONF. 24-28 Dictionary. com. (2012). Retrieved from http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/compassion Panos, A. (2011). Understanding and preventing compassion fatigue-a handout for professionals. Retrieved February 18, 2012 from http://www. giftfromwithin. org/html/prvntcf. html Stoppain. org. (2012). Net of care: information and resources for caregivers. Your needs. Retrieved February 17, 2012 from http://www. netofcare. org/content/your_needs/spiritual_needs. asp

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