I had never heard of compassion fatigue (CF). My therapist mentioned it to me as something from which I might be suffering taking care of my elderly father.
Giving Care to an Elderly Parent
Together with my three siblings, I look after my elderly father. My Mom passed away in 2016, and Dad is now on his own.
Dad is curmudgeonly by nature. Add to this his advanced age, loneliness, varied annoying health issues, and losing his driver’s license, and you get an angry man who regularly heaps toxic levels of negativity onto us – the people who love him the most.
We try our best – the four of us. Shuttling him here and there. Visiting and sharing a meal or a cup of tea. Walking with him around the mall and helping him buy a few groceries. He has a very small life, and so the physical demands on us are small too. But, psychologically? The effects are deep and draining.
Recognizing Compassion Fatigue
Eventually, CF leads to some significant symptoms, such as anxiety, headaches, digestive problems, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, and a lack of empathy or indifference toward the person you’re caring for.
This is where I am right now. Indifference. I love my father dearly and want very much to participate in his care. But how do I get from indifference back to where I genuinely want to help him?
The short answer is self-care and boundaries.
Mitigating Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
After reading up about CF on the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project and other websites and watching some videos (see one below) on the topic, it seems I am severely behind the ball. I should have been proactively participating in daily/regular rejuvenation practices (like self-care) to help alleviate CF symptoms.
But like I said at the beginning – who knew that this was even a thing? I sure didn’t. But now I do. And so do you.