Preventing Compassion Fatigue
by Kay Glidden, MS
Certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist & Trainer
Co-owner, Compassion Resiliency
Dr. Naomi Remen said in her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom: “The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.”
Do you ever feel frustrated or impatient taking care of your loved one who is living with dementia? This is a normal consequence of experiencing compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is the emotional erosion of our ability to experience empathy and compassion towards others.
I have been a trainer for compassion fatigue prevention for several years. I have experienced compassion fatigue through the years as a therapist for college students and as a supervisor for Behavioral Health case managers. Recently my husband has been caring for his 92 year old mother who is living with dementia. I have seen first-hand how difficult this has been for him. He struggles, at times, keeping his patience, providing compassion and empathy and taking care of himself.
Many of our participants who have attended our training tell us the common signs and symptoms they are experiencing include exhaustion, headaches, irritability, insomnia, increased use of alcohol or other drugs and compromised care. The key is to become aware of and identify these as signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue. Ask for help and support before your physical and mental health are jeopardized.
My husband says talking about his frustrations, sharing some of the caregiving responsibilities with his sisters and me, daily exercise, taking short vacations and keeping a sense of humor help him gain perspective.
During our compassion fatigue prevention training, my Co-Trainer and I ask participants to commit to a DAILY self-care plan for restoring their resiliency. Participants have included meditation, yoga, deep breathing, taking breaks, asking for help and mindful walking in nature on their self-care plans.
What will you do if your bucket is empty? How can you replenish and restore your empathy so that you can be healthy and compassionate for your loved one? It’s ok to take care of you, you are not being selfish. Take time for you and show yourself some compassion. www.compassionresiliency.com