Knowing the Difference Between Compassion Fatigue and Caregiver Burnout

To say that caregiving is a difficult job would be an understatement. While the fulfillment and joy of caregiving is widely accepted, it does not detract from the fact that this job is not easy. For many, the process can include stress, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Thus, it is no surprise that some caregivers find themselves experiencing conditions such as compassion fatigue and burnout. These experiences, although similar, are not the same thing.

It is imperative for caregivers to be aware of these different conditions, their causes, and their individual symptoms. Knowing this basic information can better prepare everyone, be they home health aides or caregiving networks, to protect caregiver’s mental health. If you need the assistance of a home health care aid, contact one today to learn more. 

Caregiver Burnout

Burnout, quite simply, is the product of overextending. It is the feeling of spending too many hours doing too many tasks without a reprieve from the act of caregiving. It can be caused by an unrealistic workload, a misunderstanding of boundaries, or a lack of self-care for the caregiver.

The common symptoms from caregiver burnout are:

➢ A lingering feeling of exhaustion

➢ A general apathy in things that once brought joy

➢ Withdrawal from family members, close friends, and other community

➢ Drastic changes in sleeping or eating habits

➢ Feelings of self harm

Compassion Fatigue

While burnout is caused by a general overextension, compassion fatigue is caused by an emotional overextension. Namely, it’s what happens when a caregiver is overwhelmed by the exposure to a traumatic or stress-inducing situation. Home health aides have described it as an overload of empathy.

The common symptoms of compassion fatigue are:

➢ A pronounced change in worldview or philosophy

➢ A consistent feeling of guilt, hopelessness, or numbness

➢ Pronounced mood changes or irritability

➢ Drastic changes in sleeping or eating habits

➢ A replaying of traumatic events

How Caregivers Can Protect Themselves from Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

The best way to protect the wellbeing of caregivers is to be aware of the signs and symptoms of these conditions. With the right knowledge, it becomes possible to treat any debilitating condition before it can fully fester. At the end of the day, the goal is to practice proactive protection.

Proactive protection is as simple as checking in on the caregiver, ensuring that their hours are manageable, and giving them mental health resources if they are in a potentially traumatic scenario.