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Anoka, Minnesota

2006 N 1st Ave Ste 205 , Anoka, MN 55303

(763) 786-1000

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What Family's Need to Know About Caregiver Burnout

Caring for others is often driven by motivations of love and understanding. It’s not uncommon for family caregivers to initially feel that their capacity for helping those they love is nearly limitless. From taking care of finances and managing medications to preparing meals and cleaning, a sense of fulfillment comes with assisting a loved one. But many find themselves going through the motions of caring without taking time out to focus on their own needs – often to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. As a result, family caregivers may feel something they’ve never experienced before–decreased empathy. This condition is known as compassion fatigue.

Keep the smile by helping prevent caregiver burnout

In decades past, compassion fatigue was seen primarily in healthcare professionals. This should hardly come as a surprise considering the profession involves constantly helping patients who are suffering or experiencing diminished quality of life. We heard a great deal about this during the height of the pandemic.  But as the country’s aging population continues to grow, many family caregivers are left feeling much the same way.  Unlike professionals, often family caregivers work and then provide the help their loved ones need--so the work never seems to end.

In addition to the lower threshold of empathy, family caregivers experiencing compassion fatigue may feel the following:

  • Exhaustion (physical and/or emotional)
  • Feelings of dread or guilt
  • Irritability, anxiety, or anger
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Trouble finding meaning in caregiving
  • Self-isolation

The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project notes that the worst symptom of compassion fatigue is denial because it prohibits family caregivers from examining the feelings associated with their caregiving situation. If ignored for an extended period, family caregivers may begin to feel resentment toward their loved one, ultimately leading to a communication breakdown and strained relationship.  Outside relationships suffer as well. In a collaborative research study with the Stanford Center on Longevity, Comfort Keepers, and ClearCare, it was indicated that those responsible for a loved one with a severe illness experience poor emotional well-being because of their inability to maintain their social lives properly. The results of the study highlight the increasing need for family caregivers to not only acknowledge their compassion fatigue but also take steps toward self-care. Doing so can certainly help the family caregiver, but it will also maintain the relationship with their loved one. 


What to Do Next

Below are a few steps that family caregivers can take to combat compassion fatigue and get back to feeling positive about caring for their loved ones.

  • Understand the common signs of compassion fatigue (listed above) and acknowledge them if they occur.
  • Practice a self-care regimen that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and consistent sleep.
  • Carve out time to spend with friends and maintain social connections.
  • Find a caregiver support program, either in the community or online. 
  • Document your thoughts and feelings related to caregiving in a journal.
  • Choose healthy activities during your downtime (e.g., go for a walk, meditate, or practice a favorite hobby).
  • Discuss your feelings with a counselor or therapist. 

Find a resource to help you get respite.  This could be a trusted friend, friend of the family, neighbor, or potentially from a church or synagogue.  If someone doesn’t have anyone for backup they may want to consider hiring an in-home care agency.  Home care companies can provide reliable support so you can find the time necessary to get a break and take care of yourself physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Most in home care companies work better when you schedule the respite in advance, and sometimes they may have a minimum amount of hours you need to use.  While this may be expensive, preventing burnout and helping the family caregiver stay fresh is well worth the price.  It also helps with scheduling your own needs like medical, hair, nail or doctor's appointments.  One of our respite clients scheduled a lunch with friends and his 9 hole game of golf, knowing his wife was being taken care of safely.  

If the person you are caring for is a veteran check on their qualifications to get help through the VA.  Here is some information on how to start.  



Good Therapy. “The Cost of Caring: 10 Ways to Prevent Compassion Fatigue.” Web. 2016.

Psychology Today. “Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue?” Carter Psy.D. Web. 2014.

Stanford Center on Longevity. “Spotlight on Caregiving: Exploring the Well-being of Family Caregivers” Web. 2016.

Daily Caring. “How to Cope with Compassion Fatigue: 8 Tips for Caregiver.” Web. 201

AARP. “Caregiving in the U.S.” Web. 2015. 


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